Efficacy of Group-Based Organised Physical Activity Participation for Social Outcomes in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

  • Katherine HowellsEmail author
  • Carmel Sivaratnam
  • Tamara May
  • Ebony Lindor
  • Jane McGillivray
  • Nicole Rinehart


The aim of this novel review and meta-analysis was to clarify the effects of group-based organised physical activity (OPA) for social and communicative outcomes in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Searches yielded 4347 articles. Eleven were identified for review and seven for meta-analysis. Pooled statistical results revealed a non-significant effect for communication (k = 4; g = 0.13, CI [− 0.12, 0.38], p = .13) and a significant small-medium improvement in overall social functioning (k = 6; g = 0.45, CI [0.19, 0.72], p = .001). Despite acknowledged limitations, these findings are important in the context of a growing clinical and consumer-driven demand for research that determines the role of OPA as a non-medical and inclusive treatment for children with ASD.


Group-based Organised physical activity ASD Autism spectrum disorder Social functioning Meta analysis 



KH is supported by a scholarship funded by Jonathan and Simone Wenig. Funding related to this paper has also been received from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and the Moose Foundation.

Author Contributions

KH, CS, TM, JM and NR were involved in the conception and study design of this paper. KH and CS were involved in article screening. KH and EL completed risk of bias assessments. KH and TM were involved in data analysis. All authors contributed to analysis interpretation and manuscript drafting. All authors approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychology, Faculty of Health, Deakin Child Study CentreDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  2. 2.School of Psychology, Deakin Child Study CentreDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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