With school right around the corner, there are plenty after school activities available for students, like sports! However, finding the right sports for kids with autism can be challenging. Despite some challenges, staying healthy and physically active is important for children, especially those with autism!
Benefits of Participating in Sports
Being active and physically fit is important for all children because exercise helps maintain a child’s physical health. Outside of the obvious health benefits, there are numerous other benefits from being involved in sports! Dr. Sean Healy, an author who focuses on the benefits of exercise for children with autism, has studied the wide-ranging benefits of exercise.
- Physical Health
Recent studies have shown that individuals diagnosed with autism possess below average muscular strength and endurance than is typical for their age. Physical sports that promote activity and movement are a great way to ensure kids with autism are remaining fit and healthy. Sports improve a child’s motor proficiency and physical fitness by keeping their muscles active!
- Social Skills
Kids with autism that are physically active are also more likely to demonstrate progression in their social skills. Involvement in sports provide kids more opportunities to interact with other children both verbally and non-verbally. Sports provide children a fun and structured setting to bond.
- Motor Skills
Another benefit of children with autism participating in sports is that their motor skills can be significantly improved! Throwing, catching, and running are examples of a sports related activities that can improve motor skills. Refining motor skills can help children to become more independent, as well as expose them to new experiences.
Selecting the Right Sport for Each Child
There are so many different sports that can be suitable for children with autism! Since all children are unique and excel at different abilities, some activities may be better than others. When searching for sports or activities for kids to participate in, trial and error is a normal part of this process!
Research has shown that autistic children enjoyed swimming more than their neurotypical peers. Swimming is a great form of exercise because it builds endurance and increases heart rate without the negatives of impact stress! Not only is swimming great for physical health, but it has also been shown to improve motor skills in children with autism. Swimming may be an ideal sport for kids that struggle with interaction and socialization, because there is not as much requirement to communicate with other children. Since most schools have swim teams, the opportunity to join this beneficial physical activity is available!
- Horseback Riding
Horseback riding is great for children with autism because it is physically beneficial and also considered animal therapy. For kids that may have a hard time interacting with adults and peers, this sport gives them the opportunity to feel a connection with the horse they ride. Research done on horseback riding found that after taking a 10 week horseback riding course, children with autism had shown less irritability, improved social and communicative skills, and improved language.
- Martial Arts
Any form of martial arts, such as karate or taekwondo, are a great sport for most kid with autism! Studies show martial arts classes improve school-aged children’s executive functioning. The sport is also a great way to improve physical health and agility. If your child struggles with communication and social interactions, martial arts activities aren’t an overexposure of social interaction.
For children who may be more social, group sports, like soccer, baseball, and basketball, are great options! This team sports support coordination, social interactions, and overall physical health. Along with the social difficulty, be aware of the effects of loud or overwhelming environments for children with autism
Sports are a great way to keep children active and physically fit! Remember, not every sport is a fit for every child, but continuous participation is essential for finding what works for them. As with any activity, be sure to stay hydrated and cool. Have a safe and enjoyable school year. If your children do decide to participate in any sports … Go Team!!
About Helping Hands Family
Helping Hands Family (HHF) is a growing provider of autism treatment in the Northeast. We offer in-clinic, in-home, and in-school autism therapy based on each child’s unique needs. Our team is composed of autism professionals with decades of clinical experience. They are devoted to delivering customized treatment plans through top-rated programs to help kids with autism progress socially and support new ways of interacting with the world!