Can kids with autism play sports?
While the rules and attention required for sports can present a challenge for students with autism, there’s no reason your child can’t participate in sports! All activities require extra preparation and consideration when you have a child with autism, and sports are no different. If you want your child to join in sports, especially team sports, be prepared to spend a lot of your own time prepping your child for what to expect. Many people running, soccer or basketballs flying around, and complicated rules may frustrate or disenchant your child. Make sure you’ve prepared him or her as much as possible for what he’ll face on the field.
For many children, team sports may be too much stimulation. If your child has more severe issues with social interactions and working with others, these sports may provide more stress than self-esteem. Before enrolling your student in a team sport like basketball, football, or soccer, consider whether he or she is able to assimilate well enough into a group of non-autistic students.
Just because team sports aren’t a great fit, that doesn’t mean you have to rule out sports for your child. Some sports that are a little more focused on the individual might make a better fit. Swimming, running, karate, and bowling all have more of a focus on individual performance while still having a group atmosphere. While you’re child is performing the physical action, whether it be swimming a race, or a frame of bowling, he can focus on that specific action. When his turn is over, he can practice interacting with others and cheering on the rest of his team. These sports provide segmented tasks that may gel better with the challenges that come with autism.
You can also look for special leagues in your area for children with developmental or learning disabilities. Often, there may be a Special Olympics team your child can join, where coaches will be prepared to handle your child’s special needs.
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Can autistic people be good at sports?
That depends on their physical development and coordination. Sometimes they can be if they didn’t have any physical development problems or if they received enough physical therapy in school such that their muscles, bones, center of gravity and balance are well-coordinated enough to play. I know one little boy with ASD who would love to play sports, but he’s a little uncoordinated. He can play, but he will probably never get signed to a professional ball team. Still, one has to admire his pluck and his upbeat attitude.
Another boy on the spectrum can hit, run, and catch like nobody’s business. He has the physical traits the other one doesn’t. However, this one would rather be reading a book than playing sports. His heart isn’t in it, and sometimes that makes all the difference.
The biggest problem most children with autism have to overcome is learning to play as a team member. They kind of get stuck in the singular mode of the disorder, and forget to pass the ball to a teammate or help a teammate get by the goal. They also tend to take it personally if they get hit with a ball or puck and take it out on the other team member who was probably just trying to pass the item in play.