Little ones with autism are generally good with individual sports rather than team sports (exceptions are always there); specifically, something that does not include much of hand-eye coordination. ASD does create challenges when it comes to sports but that certainly doesn’t mean little ones should stay away from physical activity.
Following are some sports options for kids with Autism:
Is an amazing sport that requires concentration, techniques and once you have mastered the art, it gives you immense self-confidence and you are ready for any challenge thrown at you.
Martial arts has a lot of visual training as trainees watch their instructor perform the movements. Then they are asked to repeat the movement under the supervision of the instructor. Instructors use positive reinforcement to motivate kids. Martial arts not only improve the skill, but several kids have had positive effects on other activities at school and at home.
Ethan Fineshriber’s (Diagnosed with ASD at the age of 3): Clinched the XMA Forms World Championship with a perfect score at the ATA World Expo.
Most individuals including kids love swimming especially during summers. Kids who don’t enjoy sports can find this more exciting. In some cases, repetitive aerobic activity like swimming or running helps in reducing less-appropriate repetitive behaviours and calms the individual. Cherry on the cake is that strong swimmers can be a part of the swimming team as it allows competition at an individual level.
A good example would be: Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE is a British Paralympic swimmer. She won the gold setting a Paralympic record.
Track and Field
This includes athletic contests established on the skills of throwing, jumping and running. Strangely most kids play these sports only during schools days but it’s effective for adults as well. These events require less communication skills and kids can be part of a vibrant team and excel in the sports.
Example: Steeplechaser Robert Murphy became the 1st track athlete ever from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, to advance to the NCAA Division.
Read More About: For Many With Autism, Running Is A Sport That Fits
It could be THE sports for your kid. Despite it being loud, bowling seems to be a natural sport for kids on spectrum. Probably because it’s the same repetitive action. Roll the ball down the lane twice sit down and wait for your turn. Repeat. Or could be the thrill of seeing the pins crashing down. Irrespective of the reason, bowling has emerged as a great sport for social events. Bowling leagues are generally open and welcoming and could be an opportunity to become part of a sports organization.
Horseback riding is costly yet a spectacular game for kids with autism. It challenges a child’s muscles, provides vestibular and tactile sensory input and also increases the child’s awareness on environmental and social cues. It’s not surprising that kid with autism find it less demanding to speak with animals than with individuals — and many autistic children exceed expectations at horsemanship.
Hiking (and Fishing)
Kids on spectrum are very observant and enjoy the beauty of the nature; the calm and beauty of nature is a great stress buster. Hiking could be both an individual as well as a group activity, it offers the twin benefits of exercise and getting mesmerized by the magnificence of nature, it requires less of peers’ communication & pressure and more of sightseeing. Fishing also falls under the same category, where kids enjoy nature and can be themselves.
Example: Garan Moore: A hiker with autism sets record in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Bike riding could be tough initially since it requires balancing which may not come naturall. But once kids have honed the skills, cycling can be a brilliant method to appreciate the outside. Cycling can be an individual or a group activity, just for fun or competitively.
Guide for choosing the right sports for little ones with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Let Your Child Take the Lead
Involve the kids in the decision making, discuss various options, seek his/her inputs and observe the cues. Parents are the best guide, they know what is right for their kids. With inputs from the kids parents may zero down the list to a few options they can consider. Involving kids have an additional advantage since they know that they are trying something new and would be excited to explore it.
Communication is Key
While researching parents may seek information from other parents based on their experiences. Based on your research approach the instructor or coach and be upfront about the strength and challenges faced by the kid. Also discuss if you have any doubts or apprehension; mutual discussion would always lead to better understanding.
Is a great option to gauge kid’s level of interest in the activity. Ask him why he likes the specific sports against others; this will enable you to comprehend his interests. Little ones generally perform better with practice, so don’t surrender if your child does not appear to do well initially.
Set Realistic Expectations and go the extra mile
Setting realistic expectations is very important for overall success. Based on the discussion with the instructor and your observation set realistic goals. Help the kid practice the activity at home, try to make it more fun. Parents may consider private sessions with coaches / instructor in the beginning so that the kid could get individual undivided attention.
The final step to success is to encourage your child! Allow him to understand that regardless of how he / she performs, you will always be proud of him / her.