Introduction Engaging in physical activity and recreation are important aspects of health for children living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). However, children with ASD experience higher levels of inactivity and obesity along with increased injury rates. Since parent support is key to children’s activity participation, their safety related perceptions are important to understand and address. This scoping review aimed to examine literature on parent-focussed interventions, supports and barriers for safe physical activity for children with ASD.
Methods The methodology was guided by Arksey and O’Malley’s framework for scoping reviews. Search procedures were developed collaboratively with a university librarian and included searches of five electronic databases, as well as grey literature and hand searching. Included abstracts were those reporting parent level measures related to physical or recreational activity for children 0–19 years living with ASD. Abstracts and articles were further examined for inclusion of concepts related to safety or injury prevention. Two reviewers examined each abstract and full text article and a third reviewer resolved any disagreements.
Results Library electronic database searches yielded 603 abstracts and grey literature and hand searching yielded 2049 titles. In total, 44 full text articles were reviewed, 21 met the inclusion criteria and eight addressed parental perspectives on safety for children with ASD. Study methods included quantitative (4), qualitative (2) and mixed methods (2). No intervention studies were found while descriptive studies reported parental safety concerns including: program staff ability to ensure safety; safety of outdoor environments, and children’s lack of safety awareness and skills.
Conclusions Research on parent views and experiences regarding safety-related factors influencing activity participation for children with ASD is currently limited. Additional research on this topic is needed to inform program and policy development and promote opportunities for children with ASD to engage safely in physical activity while also addressing parental perspectives.