Studies show that exercise is not only good for our body, but also good for our minds. Participating in group sports helps children learn how to work as a team and gain confidence in a skill, but team sports often present many challenges for kids with autism.
We parents often wonder what kind of sports should we enroll our autistic child into. So, what is the best sport for our children?
My personal opinion is the best sport is the one your child best enjoys and excels. The fact that autism comes with impaired social skills, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills means that the child might have a difficult time participating in team sport like soccer, baseball, hockey, etc.
That certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it if your child is interested in some of those sports, but we have to be realistic sometimes and try to help the child choose something that he/she might excel in.
Swimming competitions, for example, are particularly good for autistic children because they can compete individually.
I have also read that horseback riding is a real success amongst autistic children. I know from personal experience that my son loved horseback riding. I literally had to pull him off the horse when the time was up, he just had such a connection to that animal. Another sport he really enjoyed was bowling. He is good with any kid of balls, and at first I had to make sure to teach him how to handle the ball. Once he got it down, he loved it! I just had to supervise him so he wouldn’t drop it on his feet. It was a great family outing to go to the bowling alley, and the loud music didn’t seem to bother him either.
Another great sport is walking. We walk 1 to 2 miles a day, sometimes with a little running and he loves it. We talk and point out things to him, greet other walkers/runners, so he gets a bit of socialization as well. The best part of our day is when we get our walking shoes on and go out to enjoy the late afternoon.
While martial arts aren’t sports in the typical sense, they are physical outlets. They also combine the elements of predictability and structure with the challenges of physical interaction with other people. For many kids with autism, the martial arts are a wonderful way to build physical skills and self-esteem.
It is a challenge to find a place where they will take an autistic child, but once you find it, your child will love you for it. I will try out a place here where I live and hope that they will be take him in and that he can attend. The instructor said he had worked with several kids who were in the spectrum and he goes only case by case as he evaluates them. I am hoping for the best – our free trial will be Tuesday next week.
We should never underestimate our children’s abilities. Instead of focusing on what the child can’t do, or can not participate in, we need to focus on what he can do and loves to do. Often times our ego and wants and “hopes” for our child interfere with the decision-making in this issue. So lets just drop our wants and focus on our kids’ wants instead. It will be fun for everyone. When you give your child a chance, the sky is the limit.
So let’s get out there and find the best sport for our precious child.