There are countless benefits to getting involved in sports at a young age. Kids learn invaluable skills like coordination, communication problem-solving, and encourages a healthy lifestyle! However, we understand that these skills may not come as easily to children who are on the spectrum. The core features of ASD effect social, communicative, coordinative and behavioral skills, which are heavily relied on for many team sports.
Sports that require an advanced amount of communication and coordination can cause sensory overload and make it potentially difficult for kids diagnosed with autism to find the enjoyment that their typically developing peers do. This doesn’t mean that they should miss out on the chance to get involved! While there are sports that may not be suitable for children on the spectrum, we’ve compiled a list of six sports that have been proven to be a good fit for children with ASD:
Learning to swim is an extremely valuable skill for all children to know and translates into a great team sport as well. It is considered a very therapeutic activity and teaches kids the repetitive motions of different strokes and how to stay afloat. Becoming part of a swim team may seem like a frightening endeavor at first, but this sport allows children to compete on their own terms and improve at their own pace.
Swimming has been known to improve coordination, social skills, self-esteem, and cognitive skills that they can use for the rest of their lives. Read more about other personal experiences and programs available here!
Track & Field
Similar to being part of a swim team, track & field teams give kids the choice to socialize with teammates if they would like to, but it is not necessary to succeed. Accomplishments are made at an individual level. There is always the option to participate in relay teams where athletes can work together towards a common goal.
Running is one of the best full body workouts and is especially helpful in combating diabetes and obesity, common concerns for those diagnosed with autism. Some of the most important long-term benefits that track & field will provide for your child are a decrease in self-stimulatory behavior, decrease in aggression, and an outlet to burn off any built up tension and energy.
For children of all levels and abilities, learning to ride a bike is a great way to learn balance, independence, and stamina. While the stresses of learning to ride can be especially heightened for children on the spectrum, there are plenty of resources that have great tips and ideas on how to make it a little easier. Check out howtolearn.com’s suggestions!
Once your child learns to balance and ride on their own, cycling provides many awesome physical and mental benefits! The necessity for constant motion strengthens leg and core muscles, fine-tune’s motor skills, and teaches balance. Additionally, kids will learn the value of determination and how to succeed on their own.
For kids that are not quite ready to commit to a team sport but may eventually want to, bowling is a sport that will ease them into an athletic social setting! It is an easy sport to teach and learn. The repetitive action of rolling the ball down the lane and watching the pins fall is often a very rewarding result and kids enjoy the celebration when they get their first strike! Kids will learn the importance of patience, as they are required to wait for others to go before they can have their turn.
Bowling is known to improve social, coordination, and behavioral skills. Since the bowling alley is normally a loud environment, parents do not have to worry as much about their own child’s noise levels. However, the noise and light levels may be a challenge for some children.
Martial Arts is one of the most highly recommended sports for children with ASD. The repetition and movements required to learn it are a great way to keep children healthy in both body and mind. The mental drills that are taught combat stress and anxiety and a calm demeanor is often encouraged during sessions.
Kids are taught the value of structure and discipline. While this sport does put children in contact with others, it begins with one-on-one training by a professional until they reach an advanced level. By putting them in competition with themselves to remember the right movements and hit the right spots, they are developing invaluable mental and physical skills.
Though this sport tends to be on the pricier side, horseback riding is considered to be extremely therapeutic. Even those with high-functioning autism have been known to excel at this activity. Horses and their handlers, who are specifically trained for this type of sport, calm riders, encourage them to focus on every moment and movement, and to accept the training process. Additionally, children learn how to care for the horse and develop connections with the animals.
The We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym is also here to help kids of all levels and all abilities stay active! Our specially designed sensory equipment encourages many valuable life skills, such as motor control, upper and lower body strength, and socialization. There are 10 pieces of specially designed sensory equipment at our gyms: the zip line, zip box and slide, crash pit, trampoline, tunnel, carpet swing, hammock swing, climbing structure, bolster swing, and swivel rotators and carabiners with webbing. In addition to these, many gyms include rock walls and various fun activities to create a healthy and fun environment. You can find our all inclusive spaces at 70+ locations across the U.S. and the world.
Choosing the right sport for your child can be a daunting task,. The most important thing to consider when choosing a sport is how much your child will enjoy and grow from the experience.The sports listed above are all great starts to get your child involved in an active and healthy lifestyle. Remember that ultimately, sports are meant to be a fun activity!