A Community-Based, Adaptive Soccer Program for Children with Autism: Design, Implementation, and Evaluation


  • Lorna M. Hayward
  • Maria Fragala-Pinkham
  • Kenneth Johnson
  • Alcy Torres


autism spectrum disorder, child, physical activity, soccer, community-based adaptive sports programs


The study purpose was to describe and evaluate the effectiveness of a 6-week, community-based, adaptive soccer program for 18 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Pre- and post-soccer skill outcomes and a parent satisfaction survey documented the intervention effectiveness. Program physical intensity was moderate since the children averaged 5546 (SD = 2817) steps per session. Improvements in kicking accuracy (p = 0.048) and 15-yard agility time (p < 0.001) were observed and parents were satisfied with the program.  This research supported the feasibility and effectiveness of an adaptive soccer program on improving soccer related skills and physical activity outcomes in children with ASD.

Author Biographies

Lorna M. Hayward

Lorna M. Hayward is an associate professor of physical therapy at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. Her research interests include promoting physical activity in children with disabilities, international service learning, and developing clinical expertise through reflection in doctor of physical therapy students.

Maria Fragala-Pinkham

Maria Fragala-Pinkham is a physical therapist at the Research Center for Children with Special Needs and Director of the Adaptive Sports program at Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton, MA. Her research interests include the promotion of evidence-based practice in pediatric rehabilitation and the development, evaluation, and dissemination of effective models of care for children.

Kenneth Johnson

Kenneth Johnson is a physical education teacher at the Middle School, Wellesley Public School, Wellesley MA. He served in the United States Navy for four years and has been teaching at the Wellesley Middle School for 11 years, and is currently the Intramural Coordinator at the Middle School.  Ken is passionate about promoting physical fitness in children of all ages.

Alcy Torres

Alcy Torres is a pediatric neurologist at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Assistant Professor of Pediatric Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Dr. Torres, has been named one of Boston’s best pediatric neurologists by Boston magazine, and is committed to strengthening BMC’s presence in pediatric neurology and in the Hispanic community. Alcy played professional soccer in Ecuador and is certified as a Federation International Football Association (FIFA) referee.





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