Cite as: Blagrave, A. J., Colombo-Dougovito, A. M., & Healy, S. (2021). “Just invite us”: Autistic adults’ recommendations for developing more accessible physical activity opportunities. Autism in Adulthood. Advanced Online Publication. DOI: 10.1089/aut.2020.0055.
Autistic adults engage in lower levels of physical activity (PA) than their non-autistic peers, and over sixty percent do not meet national guidelines for PA. Additionally, autistic adults face myriad barriers to PA participation that can make accessing activities challenging. To support the inclusion of autistic adults in PA, the current study sought to explore first-hand recommendations for PA participation from autistic adults' perspective.
We interviewed 23 autistic adults aged 18 to 75 years about their PA experiences across their lifespan, including querying the participants’ recommendations for supporting autistic adults in PA. A qualitative descriptive design with a constructivist lens guided the thematic analysis.
The analysis resulted in two overarching themes: 1) It’s helpful to have someone there to support; and 2) It’s that sensory thing, it always is. Each theme includes participant-provided recommendations to guide professionals in the field of PA.
The autistic adult voice, long absent from conversations about PA, is a valuable and needed addition to understand how to improve physical activity experiences for this population. Recommendations from this study include: (1) listening to the perspectives and insight of autistic adults; (2) consideration of sensory stimulus when planning for PA participation; and (3) encouraging and providing social supports for PA participation.