6 Benefits of Athletics for Children on the Autism Spectrum

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Finding the athletic activity you child enjoys can benefit him or her physically, mentally and emotionally.
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Too many people who love to remind us about why we “can’t” do something. They tell us why we won’t be good at it or why it won’t be good for us. So often these people are completely wrong.

If you have heard that athletics is not for your child just because he or she has autism, please know that is not the case.

Finding and participating in the form of athletic activity which your child enjoys has the potential to benefit your child physically, mentally, and emotionally.

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You build motor skills through learning and repetition. Athletic activities provide children with opportunities to practice their motor skills in a fun environment.

Learning how to catch and throw a football or kick a soccer ball develops a form of muscle memory which translates to everyday tasks like carrying dishes to the sink or walking to the bus stop.

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Exercise is one of the easiest, quickest ways to reduce feelings of anxiety. When we exercise, our bodies naturally release feel-good hormones that relax and calm our minds.

Kids on the autism spectrum tend to have higher baseline levels of anxiety. Making athletic participation a great natural and healthy way to ease some of their symptoms.

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Unused muscles lose their healthy tone and ultimately atrophy. Once this happens, a decline in strength and coordination happens.

Kids with autism inherently tend to exhibit weaker muscle tone than their peers. Athletic activities that work the entire body help to improve tone and build strength which makes the activities of daily life easier.

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Recent research conducted by the CDC showed that roughly 33% of children diagnosed with autism are overweight as opposed to 13% of their peers. This finding may be because the average child with autism tends to be less physically active.

Finding an athletic activity that resonates with your child and that he or she looks forward to can facilitate the introduction of physical fitness into your child’s life. It helps with both weight loss and weight maintenance.

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We know that children with autism tend to feel most comfortable with repetition and routines. This preference can merge well with athletics. Athletes who have autism have noted that the rhythmic, repetitive motions of running, exercising in an ADA certified gym, swimming, or dribbling a basketball are particularly gratifying.

Incorporating regular practice and training sessions into your child’s schedule helps to make physical fitness a part of her routine.

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Some athletes say that their autism has helped them to focus intently on learning a certain routine or skill. They find that they can repeat the skill over and over until they master it without getting bored or giving up as others may.

Placing your child in a situation where her autism can be an asset, not a detriment – where it allows her to excel – is one of the best gifts you can give for her self-esteem.

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