Encouraging children to get interested in extracurricular activities sets a great foundation for their adolescent years. It allows them to build on a hobby, get to know their peers, exert their energy, and increase their physical activity throughout the week.
We know that there’s a bit of a learning curve involved when it comes to autism and sports, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from getting your kid active! Traditional team sports may be more difficult for an autistic child to get into; many pose sensory and communicative challenges that may be hard to dismiss.
However, there are dozens of other individual-competition-based sports that still incorporate social interaction while working on your child’s development. With constant movement, it’s important to ensure your child has great balance, motor skills, coordination, and core strength to feel comfortable and confident in their day-to-day activities.
Autism and Athletics: The Benefits of Getting Your Child into Recreational Sports
Sports are a great way to introduce your autistic child to different exciting, physical options for recreational fun.
“Through participating in sports they are provided with leisure activities that support an active lifestyle, promote communication skills, support the development of one’s strength and endurance, but most importantly, promote inclusion amongst peers and in the community,” occupational therapist Kate Usher shared with Psych Central.
There are many benefits to introducing autistic children to sports, such as:
- Increasing confidence and self-esteem
- Feeling empowered to make their own decisions; increased independence
- Getting involved with peers
- Developing new friendships
- Understanding teamwork
- Improving physical and mental wellness
6 Individual Sports for Your Autistic Child
Are you looking for a new way to improve your child’s physical and social skills? Here are a few different individual sports for high-functioning autism to consider:
Swimming is a great option to introduce to any child at a young age! It’s a great way to help your kid get comfortable with the water, practice their endurance skills, and have fun along the way. Autistic children can benefit widely from swimming as well; it’s an individual sport that doesn’t rely on ball handling like most traditional team sports.
This is a great option to consider if your autistic child wants to play with a team; the sport itself is individual but may carry over to a larger group of children.
2. Horseback Riding
For many, horseback riding is considered a therapeutic activity. This sport can be highly advantageous for autistic kids. The act of horseback riding itself can be extremely calm and tranquil, and the rider is encouraged to focus on movement and horse handling.
Plus, your child gets to spend time with animals! This can also be another great opportunity to work on communication and social skills.
3. Track and Field
Track and Field is the perfect extracurricular activity for an autistic child who wants to focus on their independence and physical skills, but has the option to improve social skills as well. This sport caters closer to the individual level, however, is done with a collective team.
And running in general has plenty of positive benefits for autistic children, according to Runner’s World. Research shows that individuals with autism who incorporate exercise into their habits, such as running, see reduced aggression, self-injury, motor stereotypies, and repetitive behaviors.
4. Martial Arts
Mixed martial arts is considered to be one of the best options for sports for autistic children, because it teaches the importance of managing aggression; martial arts teach children spatial awareness, concentration, self-control, and communication. It’s also a great way to relieve stress and anxiety.
Beyond what it can do for mental well-being, martial arts can also teach flexibility and hand-eye coordination.
If you’re searching for a sport that allows your child to play in a social environment without committing to a team, consider bowling. This is a useful and easy sport for individual competition and it teaches patience and other behavioral skills. This is a great option for a family activity as well, just be conscious of the setting; bowling alleys can be high energy, with loud noises and bright lights. Keep this in mind as you plan your bowling trip.
Biking is another useful form of physical activity for children of all ages. It’s also a great opportunity to teach independence, balance, stamina, and endurance. If your child tends to sway on the shy side and is overwhelmed by the idea of joining a team sport, biking is a great place to start. Set aside time in your schedule for family bike rides to get into the groove of group activity.
Consider Additional Support with ABA Therapy
Are you ready to introduce your autistic child to recreational activities, but need additional support? At Blossom Children’s Center, we use Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to help children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental conditions how to better navigate behaviors in real-life situations and events.
Our staff of dedicated and experienced Behavior Technicians, Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs), and ABA fieldwork students work hard to help your child build independence, develop social skills, improve overall language and communication, and decrease inappropriate behaviors.
Interested in learning about our ABA therapy methods and programs? Schedule your consultation today.