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 will be requested for shortlisted candidates.


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.
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • 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%
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed

    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 £15,500 (tbc) 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 £7,750 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 £ 15,500 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). 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



The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Joshua Williamson

My research examined the ability of exercise to inflict damage to DNA and other biologically important structures. During my PhD I had the pleasure of being supervised by Prof Gareth Davison and Dr Ciara Hughes. Pursuing a PhD was never a goal from the outset of my academic career - I wanted to be a PE teacher and completed my BSc in Sport and Exercise Science. However, I carried on with my studies and completed a MSc in Sports Nutrition before enrolling in my PhD.If I could give advice to any new graduate student, it would be the nature of research means that things will not always go according to plan. Keep calm, take a break and then carry on. Have a life outside work. Although your lab group is like your work family, it’s great for your mental health to be able to escape work especially when things don't go to plan.

Joshua Williamson - PhD in Sports Science