2nd International Congress on Mental Health
Newpark Autism Centre, Ireland
Title: The lived experiences of autistic adults as novice Aikido martial artists: A thematic analysis
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Biography: Brian McCann
The research questions what it is to be an autistic adult as a novice martial artist in the practice of Aikido. This responds to a gap in the literature on martial arts as an intervention in autism and investigates the impact of martial practice on life-worlds and levels of happiness and well-being. Four participants met with two inclusion criteria: firstly, aged between eighteen and sixty-five; secondly, hold a clinical diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The research was conducted using Thematic Analysis (TA). The sample engaged in an adapted Aikido course taught by officially registered black belt instructors within a formal dojo setting in Dublin. Video and photo elicitation were used in the semi-structured interviews. The participants logged their experiences. Two phases of semi-structured interviews followed the course. Phase Two followed between four and six months after Phase One to register any longitudinal changes. The researcher personally transcribed over sixty thousand words of interview data. TA was selected because it focused on semantics and also combined the latency of hermeneutics, idiography and phenomenology. Phase One revealed codes across the four transcripts, revealing issues of fear, bullying, threat, protection, anxiety, comfort and safety. Phase Two manifested a significant longitudinal impact on the life-worlds of participants, ranging from a newly acquired life-world structure to an augmented peace of mind. The study contributes to the current wave of advocacy for the autistic nation and may inspire further research. On a pragmatic level, it may offer guidance to martial art instructors teaching autistic adults in their classes.