SPORTS ACTIVITIES FOR AUTISTIC CHILDREN
You may have heard about the common assessment on autistic kids describing that they’re not strongly compatible with athletic activities. That’s primarily explained by the autism features which most children exhibit, including a lack of coordination of the different parts of the body leading to reduced fine and gross motor skills, lack of spatial awareness and sense of balance. Many parents eventually come to accept their autistic child’s natural preference for indoor games that are less intense and requires little physical exertion. While this is often the case, it is still possible for children to develop great enthusiasm for sports activities that are greatly beneficial in the improvement of their motor functions. That’s because, with proper training and positive reinforcement, autistic children are able to get the fun out of these sports while also enhancing other aspects of their development. Some might even uncover their latent potential in these specific sports which can prove life-changing. It all lies on their family’s overall support in this area, and the manner in which they are trained. If you think your autistic child is more than capable of learning and mastering one or more of these sports activities, there’ s really no harm in trying. We’ve created a basic guide to choosing the kind of sports that your autistic child might like to play.
Team Sports vs. Individual Sports
Before introducing your child with whatever kind of sport you think they may like, you should first consider the nature of the sport according to the number of players involved. There are autism-related issues that might get in the way of your child’s enjoyment such as social anxiety and communication challenges. If it’s a cooperative kind of sport like basketball, baseball or volleyball, your child might have trouble performing at their best in real scenarios because they find it hard to communicate well with their teammates. There is also that existing pressure created from their team and the viewer’s expectations of their performance that might overwhelm your child. Although most team sports are indeed fun to play, these problems might get the better of your child’s sense of enjoyment. However, if your child is really fascinated with playing these cooperative games, there are still things that you can do in order to make it happen for them. You can set the game into a one-on-one type of match, which still follows the same rules but with the absence of other players. You can also invite other family members, friends, or close relatives to play as well.
For individual sports such as golf, pool, and cycling, there are also important factors that you must consider before you can be sure that your child will have fun playing it. For a start, you must teach your child the concept of sportsmanship, which they may not completely grasp due to the increased level of competitiveness they’ll feel when playing this game. They should be able to handle defeat and not resort to self-pity and loss of self-confidence. It is true that single-player sports do not require team communication and coordination, but this also means that your child has to know all the rules and terminologies of the game because they have to play a one-man team. If you decide to let them join official tournaments, you have to make your child knowledgeable enough about their own sport, especially when you know that you can’t always be there to coach them all the time.
Level of Action
There are sports activities that are very intense in the level of physical exertion involved, such as track and field, ball games, swimming, and gymnastics. Most autistic children have trouble with strenuous activities because of weaker muscle strength and an overall poor agility and coordination, especially those who are still new to these sports. If your child has low muscle tone and endurance, it would be better to introduce them to sports that require moderate to little amount of physical exertion such as golf, darts, pool, and bowling. If you see positive development in your child’s physical strength and stamina, you can then work your way up to the more intense sports.
You also have to be very conscious about the kind of environment where certain sports are played. Outdoor sports might not really be your child’s interest if there are many sensory inputs that they find distracting and irritating. If you go to a public court to play ball games, there might be other groups of people playing as well and the noise coming from all the sports equipment and people might overwhelm your child. The time of the day is also crucial to your child’s enjoyment because too much sunlight in the morning or bright artificial lights at night can discourage your child to play well. Whether playing indoors or outdoors, the temperature must be kept in check to allow your child to play at their maximum performance.
Aside from undesirable sensory inputs, your child may also seek special sensations such as the feeling of weight, pressure, and vibration. If they are sensory seekers, you can introduce to them sports like basketball and football where they can dribble and hug the ball, respectively. Gripping sports like badminton, tennis, and baseball may also work well for your child’s sensory needs. Bowling, boxing and sumo wrestling can also help address your child’s need for weight and pressure.
Affordability and Availability
Before choosing any kind of sport to introduce to your child, make sure that you can play it without spending a huge amount of cash and without having to worry whether you have sufficient time or not to complete a whole game. There are sports that require expensive equipment before they can be played, and there are also those that can last more than an hour or two. Using cheap versions of sports equipment may pose health dangers to your child and to other players, and not having enough leisure time may cut short your child’s enjoyment which might cause frustration.