Sports, activities that are best for children with autism

Here are some ideas of team, individualized sports kids can excel at

By Keith Dunlap - Graham Media Group

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For parents of children with autism, some might be understandably hesitant to put them in sports or other leisure activities.

But they should take comfort in knowing there are still a lot of good options available.

While team sports that rely a lot on communication and cooperation might be tougher for some children with autism, there are sports and activities that are great for universal participation, according to an article on verywellhealth.com.

Team sports that are good

There are team sports that have a significant individual component, and don’t have extreme elements that present sensory challenges, such as extreme hot, cold, loud or bright environments. Those activities are better suited for kids with autism. 

  • Track and field: The running and jumping can be great physical outlets, and there’s less of a communication component with other team members, given the sport's individual nature. On the same token, doing well in individual events contributes to team success, which gives kids a sense they are making meaningful contributions to the team as a whole.
  • Swimming: Basic water strokes and playing in the water are tasks that are simple and easy. Similar to track, there’s more of an individual component with the specialized events, while at the same time, there's a feeling that each person on the team is a contributing member. 
  • Bowling: This is a sport that doesn’t require much communication with other team members to succeed, because it’s so individualized. Kids essentially bowl a couple times and sit down, which is a good, repetitious routine. In addition, the congratulations from teammates after getting a strike is priceless confirmation.

Individual sports/activities

Here are some notable non-team sports and activities that can be good for children with autism or other sensory disorders.

  • Biking: If basic balancing skills can be developed, then this a good way for kids to exercise and enjoy being outdoors. If there is trouble balancing on the bike, training wheels can still be used to help. 
  • Hiking/walking/fishing: Being outside is a good stress reliever and none of these activities require significant social communication. 
  • Martial arts: A good way to build self-esteem, the structure of forms and moves, combined with physical interaction with others, make any kind of martial arts a nice activity.
  • Horseback riding: Communicating with animals is usually easier for these children, who can often thrive at horsemanship and find it to be a therapeutic activity. The only downside is that it can be expensive. 

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