This opportunity is now closed.

Funded PhD Opportunity

Effectiveness of an aquatic program on improving water safety, motor skill development and social/behavioural traits in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Subjects: Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism and Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism


Summary

Drowning has been identified as the number one cause of accidental death in US children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) indicating the vital importance of developing water safety skills within this population. Children with ASD often exhibit unique motor learning challenges, along with impaired communication and receptive language skills, limiting their opportunity to participate in community-based swim lessons.

It has been reported that traditional sporting environments may not be optimal and, in most cases, create barriers for children with ASD engaging in physical activity (Pan and Frey, 2006). It has been proposed that children with ASD may benefit from specialised physical activity approaches to avoid these known barriers and provide a tailored environment that is safe and specific to their needs.

Currently there is no research into the provision of teaching swimming or life-saving skills to children with ASD within an Irish context. It is currently unknown whether the tailored programs established by the National Governing Body are effective and adhered to within the aquatic community. It is important that this area is further explored since swimming is increasingly regarded as the most enjoyable and favoured activity by children with ASD and one in which families can equally/collectively participate (Huetting and Darden-Melton, 2004).

Furthermore, it has been well documented that swim training programs are not only are effective in improving swim skill ability (Fragala-Pinkham et al., 2011) but can also improve social/behavioural characteristics, increase the child’s sense of accomplishment and self-worth, in addition to cognitive function within ASD children (Mortimer et al., 2014). Despite this trend these findings cannot be generalised to the overall ASD population due to various methodological limitations in terms of sample size, excluding children with moderate to severe ASD and evaluating the provision of aquatic programs.

This project aims to:

1.Perform a systematic review in relation to aquatic programs and ASD children.

2.Evaluate the current swim lesson provision for ASD children. Identify barriers associated with these swim programs.

3.Investigate swim lesson provision from the parent’s/guardian’s perspective to discover considerations associated with bringing an ASD child to an aquatic environment.

4.Assess the effectiveness of a tailored swim program for improving water safety, advancing motor skill development, improving social and behavioural parameters.

References:

Fragala-Pinkham, M.A., Haley, S.M., & O’Neil, M.E. (2011). Group swimming and aquatic exercise programme for children with autism spectrum disorders: a pilot study. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 14(4), 230–241.

Huetting, C., & Darden-Melton, B. (2004). Acquisition of aquatic skills by children with autism. Palestra, 20(2), 20–25.

Mortimer, R., Privopoulos, M., & Kumar, S. (2014). The effectiveness of hydrotherapy in the treatment of social and behavioral aspects of children with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review. Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, 7, 93–104.

Pan, C., & Frey, G. (2006). Physical activity patterns in youth with autism spectrum. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 597–606.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses


Contact supervisor

Dr Carla McCabe


Other supervisors

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