Some sports can be challenging for kids with autism. That doesn’t mean they should stay away from physical activity, but it is important to help your child to choose sports that they are likely to enjoy and excel at. Autism creates specific challenges when it comes to sports, but it also opens up some exciting possibilities.
Team Sports That Could Be a Great Match for Your Child
Not every team sport requires high-level communication and cooperation and many can include an individual athlete as a valued team member.
Here are some of the top team sports that could be a great match for your child.
Swimming is a wonderful sport for most people, including children with autism. Kids who have a tough time with ball-handling skills can do well with basic strokes and typical water play. What’s more, strong swimmers with autism can be successful on swim teams because the sport allows for individual competition.
Track and Field.
Strangely, Americans teach their youngest children to play complex team sports like soccer while only high schoolers seem to compete in running and jumping! For kids with autism, track and field could be great. Track events require fewer communication skills than most team sports, yet kids who excel at track are valued team members.
Even though it’s loud, bowling seems to be a natural sport for many kids with autism. Perhaps it’s the repetition: bowl twice, sit down. Or maybe it’s the satisfaction of seeing the pins come crashing down. Whatever the reasons, bowling is a great sport for social events that include kids on the autism spectrum. Bowling leagues are often welcoming and can be a good opportunity to become part of a sports organization.
Non-Team Sports That Are Great For Children With Autism
There is a whole world of non-team sports out there and children with autism can and do take part in many of them. Skiing, surfing, sailing, and many more can be a great match for your child, especially if your family enjoys them.
Horseback riding is pricey. That aside, though, it’s a great sport for kids with autism. In fact, many kids ride horses as a therapeutic activity. It’s not unusual for kids with autism to find it easier to communicate with animals than with people and many of them excel at horsemanship.
For many kids with autism, the peace and quiet of the natural world is a great stress reliever. It can be an individual or group activity, is an easy way to get exercise and enjoy nature without the pressure of intense social communication. Fishing is another sport that may be of interest to kid with autism who enjoys the natural world.
Bike riding can be tough for kids with autism, since balance may not come naturally. Once the basic skills are mastered, though, cycling can be a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors. Like most of the sports described above, cycling can be enjoyed alone or in a group, just for fun or competitively. If your child enjoys the idea of biking and does well with training wheels, but finds a two-wheeler tricky, you may want to consider an adult trike, a tandem, or just sticking with the training wheels.
The martial arts; karate, judo, taekwando, aikido, and more, 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 along with self-esteem.