Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder. It stems from an underdeveloped cerebral cortex and is characterized by atypical cortical growth, a dysfunctional hypothalamus, and altered functions of the hippocampus and the amygdala. These neural development disorders affect the ability of relaying and interpreting messages, are characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and interaction and stereotyped behaviors, interests, with learning and problem solving, executive functions, social-emotional responses, visuospatial skills, ATTENTION AND CONCENTRATION, and activities, among other parameters. Also recently, research indicates that neuroplasticity (i.e. aberrant neuroplasticity) plays an important role in the pathophysiology of ASD. As Neuroplasticity is defined the lifelong ability of the brain to reorganize itself as a result of experience. Neuroplasticity is experience dependent, and training practices are key to promoting brain reorganization. The brain needs training to maximize its potential for appropriate functional reorganization.
Apart from the behavioral effects of ASD in the physical aspects of this disorder the major question that remains is: what type, when, why, and how much training should be given for optimal response. Note, that a common issue that these individuals face in that due to their difficulty in learning motor skills this result in movement problems because of their avoidance to participate in physical activity which leads to several other side-effects, including long-term health related issues. To date, more information is emerging trying to understood how training interacts with the developing brain and self-derived compensatory behaviors. The sure outcome of all these evidence clearly suggest that sports do favorably affects individuals under ASD and that intervention is needed. This fact, that training beneficial affects individuals with autism, and the increased knowledge regarding this spectrum disorder provides scientists with more tools that can eventually result in a favorably affected quality of life of these individuals. Learning is the by-product of neuroplasticity.
In this regard we have implements a soccer related methodological approach aiming to improve the quality of life of individuals under ASD. Soccer, has the ability through interaction, visual and auditory information processing, interpreting messages, multitasking, aerobic and anaerobic loading where appropriate, non-stereotypic behavior due to the nature of the sport itself, and the continuous changing of the environment to result in brain training, that is actually what we want and through neuroplasticity to result in promoted functional reorganization of the brain and several other adaptations within the physiological systems of the body. Our training methodology in based, apart from the employed of all the psychological and behavioral benefits of the participation in a team-type physical activity, on the science of neurophysiology and training, which enables us step by step to increase their ability to act with proper coordinated and correct biomechanically movement that favor correct movement patterns improving skills, to be able to cope with multitasking, anticipation and decision making. All the aforementioned parameters eventually lead to increased motivation and decreased fear of participating in sports and/or social interactive activities. This approach will eventually result to all the wanted benefits of physical activity, increased muscle tone, increased cardiovascular ability, increased technical skills, favorably affected body composition and biochemical factors. The outcome of participation of such a training intervention is to create a healthy (both mentally and physiologically) physical active individual that participates in sports with proper interaction with the other individuals, not feeling isolated but actually a part of the whole, having a role on his/her society. Please note that research has demonstrated that individuals under ASD two-thirds of those diagnosed with autism possess average or above-average intellectual ability, therefore they are able to understand that they can be a functional part of the whole, and not isolated individuals.