Fostering self-confidence, friendship, and fun are just some of the benefits kids with ASD can get from playing sports. Read on to find out more!
Kids diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have cognitive, motor and behavioral difficulties. Aside from that, they’re prone to doing repetitive movements, don’t do eye contacts, fail to respond even to their names and, at times, act aggressively towards others. Because of these, autistic kids tend to be isolated, branded “slow” by their teachers and schoolmates and shunned by the neuro-typical kids. And as they usually have trouble speaking, making friends is a feat.
But sports offer a ray of sun in the otherwise dark and dreary world of autism. Could it be used as a counseling method for kids with cognitive disabilities?
There’s a rise in sports teams built purposely for kids who are autistic and developmentally challenged. Their aim? Foster self-confidence, develop friendships and let the kids have fun! Aside from these three, there are a lot of benefits a child diagnosed with ASD can reap from being into athletics.
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.”Kids with autism have trouble with their motor skills such as agility, strength, body coordination, and balance. Studies have, however, shown that these skills can improve through exercise. And what’s the best form of a workout other than being a sports player?
Playing Sports Are Good Mood Boosters.
Being physically active is also shown by several studies to boost mood. Playing can be a lot of fun! Additionally, being part of a team fosters friendship among players. As making friends is something that autistic kids 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.
Being Part Of And Competing In A Team Teaches Autistic Kids Many Things Through Experience.
Learning a game, its ins, and outs and being good at doing it can be a significant milestone for someone with autism.
“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 like waiting in line for your turn, cooperating with others and even being a good sportsman when your team loses. They learn all of these through experience which is better instead of teaching these to them through words.”
But How Do We Choose The Ideal Athletic Program Suited For Our Autistic Child?
Let your child take the lead. Don’t push him into something you instinctively thinks 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.
Find the right sport for your kid. Contact sports like basketball might not be suited for a child who doesn’t have advanced motor or communication skills, so if your child is profoundly affected by his autism, it might not be a good idea to let him join a basketball team as a player.
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.
Recognize their milestones as successes. Celebrations aren’t limited to winnings. Acknowledging skill highlights as victories encourage kids 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 sports club, 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. You can also get a child who doesn’t want to play involved this way.
Most importantly, make it a family affair. Jenny White has a seven-year-old daughter, Jamie, with profound autism 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,” the mother of three shares.
“Just because a child has autism, 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 others do.” –Janeen Herskovitz, LMHC
One of the goals of counseling is to aid individuals to reach their full potential. And as sports is doing that for these kids, then, it can indeed count counseling method among its many benefits.