What sports are best for autism is a question I get asked a lot. As school starts back, so do regular sporting activities. For those who have autistic children, it may make you wonder, what sports are best for my child? There is no one, definitive answer but the particular sport or sports you choose, will depend very much on some key elements. Communication, considerations, connection and flexible thinking.
The obvious first step is to ask your child what kind of sport they would like to play, or to observe what they have expressed an interest in. The next phase is to talk about the expectations of a certain sport. Is it an individual or a team sport? How many games will they have to attend, or how many training sessions? Will they need to work with their teammates? Discuss with your child: whether they will be able to deal with the amount of time they have to be doing the activity; if they are comfortable with a sport where they may get knocked into, like soccer; or how they will deal with sequential winning and losing of points, in a sport like tennis or badminton. No matter the sport, it is important to have open and ongoing conversations with your child about their experience.
Think about whether there are any sensory issues involved with the sport. If your child is not comfortable with being jostled about or being within close proximity to others, perhaps a non-contact sport, like karate or gymnastics, should be considered. Will there be loud noises when they are playing the sport? Basketball, netball and volleyball have bells, whistles, the bouncing of balls and teammates yelling out, not to mention the clapping and noises from people watching the match. These could be overwhelming. Another aspect to consider is whether there is a uniform and if your child will be comfortable wearing shin pads under socks and shoes, for example. Some sporting clubs are very strict in what and how the uniform is worn, so it is worth finding that out in advance.
Just as important as the sport you participate in, is whether the club or association is inclusive and accepting of your family. Do not choose a team that is not understanding of your child’s needs. If it causes friction if they miss a training session, r your child does not play one day, it is probably not worth the stress. Sport should be fun and in a safe environment so that your family feels supported. Most sporting clubs allow a trial day to see if your child is interested. It is relatively easy to try out lots of different sports and activities.
You might be surprised what sparks a passion in your child. It may also be worth attending a session with a close friend or someone else they know. This may ease any anxieties of trying something new by themselves and it can be a talking point or activity the friends could do together, outside of matches or training sessions.
If, for whatever reason, your child does not find a sport they like, don’t be disheartened. Not everyone is interested in sporting activities and being active and physical is not restricted to sport. Your child might enjoy helping in the garden or walking the dogs with the family. You can visit our directory for more ideas on this subject.
Funnily enough, the most important thing about undertaking a sport is not actually about the sport itself at all; it is about being active for physical and mental well being. And if your child enjoys the sport, and feels included and safe, then that is all that matters.