Fostering self-confidence, friendship, and fun are just some of the benefits kids with autism spectrum disorder can get from playing team sports. Read on to find out more!

Kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders have cognitive, motor, as well as behavioral difficulties due to their developmental disabilities. Aside from that, kids with autism spectrum disorder are prone to doing repetitive movements during physical activity and fail to respond even to their names because of intellectual disabilities. At times, autistic children act aggressively towards others and are not capable of effective social interactions.

 

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Because of these, many children with autism tend to be isolated, branded “slow” by their teachers and schoolmates, have social difficulties and low self-esteem, and develop other mental health problems.  And as autistic children usually have trouble speaking, making friends is a feat. They do not know how to build confidence and don’t feel successful in the long term.

But what about sports? Do kids with autism benefit from engaging in sports? What kind of sports related activities is your child with autism spectrum disorder interested in? Do you think he will do better with individual sports or group sports? Can making your child active in sports related activities like martial arts or horseback riding alleviate those with high functioning autism, Asperger’s syndrome, or other types of autism spectrum disorder?

Kids Team Building Activities

Sports offer a ray of sun in the otherwise dark and dreary world of autism. Could team sports be used as a counseling method for kids with gross motor delays, impaired body language, and cognitive disabilities? Do sports traditional team sports help create a positive experience for them?

There are sports groups built purposely for kids with an autism spectrum disorder. Their aim? Foster self-confidence, increase social interactions, develop friendships, and encourage other parents and the families affected by the spectrum to participate successfully and enjoy as well!

Aside from these three, there are a lot of benefits a child diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders can reap from engaging in sports activities or joining team sports.

Exercise Improves Motor Skills

Clinical psychologist Jenny C. Yip, PsyD often said, “For starters, exercise releases endorphins, the body’s “feel-good hormones,” that can calm the mind and relax the body.” According to a pediatric neurologist, many kids with autism have trouble with motor coordination such as agility and balance. Studies have, however, shown that these skills can improve through team sports and exercise. An autistic child’s interest to play sports activities can tremendously help improve the skills of an ASD child.

Playing Team Sports For Mood Boosters And Social Skills

Being physically active in individual sports or any sports activities is also shown by several studies to boost the mood of children with autism spectrum disorder. Encouraging children with autism to play soccer, for example, can be a lot of fun! Additionally, being part of sports teams foster friendship among players. As making friends is a social component that kids with autism have trouble with, having teammates they can call friends are a big deal for them. “Physical wellness is affected by physical activity, healthy nutrition, and adequate sleep.” Marjie L. Roddick, MA, NCC, LMHC, explains.

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Being Part Of And Competing In A Team Teaches A Child With Autism Many Things Through Sports And Other Experiences

Learning a game, such as horseback riding – its ins and outs – and being good at doing it can be a significant milestone for someone with autism spectrum disorder.

“An autistic child’s self-confidence grows the more he becomes adept to the ins and outs of the sports he’s into,” says one psychiatrist. “Aside from that, playing sports also teaches them social skills and social interaction like waiting in line for your turn, cooperating with others, and even being a good sportsman together and typically developing peers. They learn all of these through experience which is better instead of teaching these to them through words.”

Sports For The Child With Autism Spectrum Disorder

But How Do We Choose The Ideal Athletic Program Suited For Our Autistic Child Who Wants To Play Sports?

Let your child take the lead. Don’t push him into something you instinctively think or he communicates out rightly to you that he doesn’t want to be part of. You have to include your child’s input when it comes to deciding where you can enroll him. Those with high functioning autism, for instance, can decide whether he wants to be in traditional sports or if he chooses to play sports that are kind of complex, such as the special olympics.

Find the right sport for your kid. Contact sports like basketball might not be suited for a child who doesn’t have advanced communication and motor skills or lacks social skills. If autistic children are profoundly affected by their condition, it might not be a good idea to let him join a basketball team as a player. Some types of traditional sports require more effort, social interaction, and strength. Consequently, not all children with high functioning autism spectrum are gifted with motor and social skills.

Look for a team with a coach whose goal is more than winning a game. Look for someone who encourages players, builds camaraderie between team members and whose focus is more than the player’s skills on the court or field.

“For kids who have developmental difficulties like those in autism, playing together, learning to take turns, cooperation, respecting others, and showing kindness and humility are more important than being the best to win a game,” says a head coach of an ice hockey team whose members have special needs, some with high functioning autism as well.

Recognize their autism milestones as successes

Celebrations aren’t limited to winnings. Acknowledging skill highlights (e.g. skill of social interaction) as victories encourages children with autism greatly. It might be as trivial as learning how to dribble a ball, but to someone who has motor skills troubles, it’s one significant win over his condition.

Being in a team doesn’t mean one has to be a player. If your child wants to join a particular club or traditional sports teams but you see that he’s not capable of playing, he can still be part of it without having to go to out on the court or the field. There are positions such as equipment managers, team managers and so on. Talk to the team coach about it. Some tasks don’t need much social skills so those with high functioning autism but are not sociable will benefit from these positions.

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Most importantly, make it a family affair for these children with autism spectrum disorders. Jenny White has a seven-year-old daughter, Jamie, with profound autism spectrum affecting her motor and verbal communication skills. Although she is fearful, Jenny took the plunge and allowed Jamie to join a baseball team. Her older sons take turns teaching the little girl how to pitch while she runs bases to show Jamie how it is done.

“She’s making slow but steady progress. I also commend her coach for being patient and encouraging and she’s regularly having physical therapy,” the mother of three shares.

“Just because a child has autism, it doesn’t mean their life should be limited — it means they might need extra help or adaptations in order to do the same things that typically developing children do.” –Janeen Herskovitz, LMHC

One of the goals of counseling children with autism is to aid individuals in reaching their full potential. And as sports is doing that for these autism spectrum kids, then, it can indeed count counseling methods among its many benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How is autism spectrum impacted by physical activity?
  2. Can someone with autism spectrum disorders properly engage in sports?
  3. How do you encourage kids with autism to engage in sports?
  4. In what ways does sports help improve children with ASD?
  5. What is messy play?
  6. Does exercise alleviate tantrums and anxiety in children with ASD?
  7. What are some common physical activities recommended for kids with autism?