About This Project

Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other Developmental Disabilities (DD) have a higher risk of being obese, more sedentary, and participate in less physical activity than typically developing (TD) peers. We are seeking to develop modifications to physical activity games for TD youth that are appropriate for kids with ASD. These will be in the form of social stories and videos that are simple for staff to use and for kids with ASD to understand.

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What is the context of this research?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the fastest-growing neurodevelopmental disability in the United States, affecting approximately one out of 68 children. Degree and severity of symptoms vary across individuals but core characteristics include deficits in social and communication skills, stereotypical behaviors, as well as motor development difficulties. Several physical concerns are also associated with ASD including higher rates of obesity and sedentary behaviors compared to their typically developing peers. Both the psychosocial and physical deficits associated with ASD tend to impede their participation in physical activity, all of which lead to increased rates of chronic health conditions as well as lower overall quality of life.

What is the significance of this project?

Participation in group physical activity (PA) is known to have a positive impact on all youth, and preliminary research suggests that PA interventions can improve a number of factors in youth with ASD, including increasing quality of life and decreasing negative behaviors. Despite this information, these studies come with major limitations including using individual approaches to PA (e.g., running, martial arts) rather than group formats, which limits opportunities for friendship building and social skills, using costly equipment/capacities and staff trained in ASD which are not typically available in community settings, and none of these studies sought to modify existing group PA interventions for youth with ASD that are feasible for staff to implement in community settings.

What are the goals of the project?

Our goal is to create feasible, effective, and sustainable group PA interventions for youth with ASD that increase overall physical activity and psychosocial functioning. We will do this by modifying an evidence-based group PA intervention for typically developing youth called LET US Play, for youth with ASD. LET US Play (lines, elimination, team size, uninvolved staff/kids, and space, equipment, and rules) takes common games and changes the rules to make them more physically active. Our modified version, termed LET US Play-Adapted will include social stories/videos that target both PA and psychosocial functioning for youth with ASD. This modified intervention has the potential to increase physical activity and psychosocial skills for youth with ASD nationwide


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We will need the following items in order for us to create the social stories/videos and the visual activity schedules

  1. We need a professional to do our voice overs during the cartoons
  2. We need a graphic designer to illustrate the social story books that we have created for each physical activity game.
  3. After creating the social stories, we need to print them in bound books so that they are easily accessible for staff to use with the kids.
  4. We will need research assistants to manage the project (2) and to train staff to implement the intervention (1) with the children.
  5. We need a DVD player to play the cartoons prior to playing the games.
  6. We need the computer in order to keep track of data entry and to edit videos.

Meet the Team

Allison Randel
Allison Randel
Jessica Chandler
Jessica Chandler
Keith Brazendale
Keith Brazendale

Team Bio

I am a research and clinical driven psychologist with areas of expertise in social skills and cognitive development and implementation and evaluation of physical activity interventions for youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), ADHD, and other developmental disabilities.Throughout my graduate training, I had significant experience in conducting assessments and therapy with children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD, ASD, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, and other developmental disabilities. My current research focuses on implementing and evaluating physical activity interventions for youth with ASD and other disabilities and how this influences social skills and overall quality of life. I am very passionate about overall health and wellness and think this project can make a significant contribution to the public health and psychological field across the nation!

I enjoy working out, traveling, and spending time with friends and family!

Press and Media

Check out this video from when the Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley came to visit Camp PALS (now known as Camp MATES) last summer!


Here is another one of Governor Haley at camp



Additional Information

Main project image (top) courtesy of Melissa on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

This is our Nutrition Coordinator Hannah with Fresh Market last year! They provided us with some healthy food for our kiddos last year at camp!

This is Governor Haley, South Carolina Governor with some campers, Dr. Allison Randel, creator of Camp MATES and Matt Wood and Shanna Poston, Director and Business Manager of the Autism of South Carolina!!

Here Governor Haley is talking to our lower and upper elementary groups about how they are liking camp so far!

This is our Nutrition Coordinator Hannah with Charleston Cooks! They lead an awesome healthy food demonstration for our campers last summer!

Project Backers

  • 61Backers
  • 100%Funded
  • $10,032Total Donations
  • $82.23Average Donation
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