Community sports and kids with autism can feel like a scary situation for most parents who are raising a child or children on the spectrum. How could our boys possibly follow the directions, stay with the group or not have a meltdown which could distract the other team members from their fun time?
These were the thoughts that ran through our heads when some friends suggested that we sign the twins up for sports. After all, making friends, developing a competitive spirit, learning how to be a good sport and having a social outlet were all the things we were working toward. And, as a child, I couldn’t wait to go and play sports with my friends. In fact, my father was a co-founder of a basketball league which was a huge success!
Our first try was soccer, however that ended fairly quickly after several different occasions where the twins just kept running a la Forrest Gump style, away from the field. Next was basketball, ah my favorite sport. I volunteered to be a coach on the team. Greatest achievement was when one of the boys got a basket, however, it was the other teams basket.
We still cheered along with everyone else in the gym like they just dunked like Michael Jordan. You know, we would have kept them in the program but the gym was so incredibly loud with whistles, buzzers, and people everywhere that it quickly became clear that this was way too over stimulating for them.
We then said let’s try some individual sports. We signed them up for swimming and gymnastics, and SUCCESS! We continue to be involved with these sports today
Here are three things that we learned which gave our kids with autism the best results.
1.It was better to have them play with kids that were younger.
2.While most parents dropped their kids off, we stayed to provide extra support.
3.Individual sports with other children present, such as swimming and gymnastics, worked better then group sports particularly where there were just too many directions.
Resources to Check Out in Your Community
There are plenty of places which offer community sports such as the Boys and Girls Club, local community centers, Boy Scouts, local chapters for the Autism Society, Autism Speaks and Kids Included Together (KIT).
National Organizations That Helped Our Kids with Autism
Every geographical area has its own organizations, here are some of the National ones which we found to be very good with the twins
My Gym– Nation’s leading non-competitive gymnastics and play program. 200+ locations offering Mommy and Me, gymnastics, birthday parties, camps and other fantastic
J.W. Tumbles– Exercising young minds and bodies is important. So is having fun. Our goal is to make learning not only a great experience, but also a rewarding one.
YMCA– We know that lasting personal and social change comes about when we all work together. That’s why, at the Y, strengthening community is our cause.
All in all, our experience of putting our twins in sports was a mixed bag. However, once we found out what worked and what didn’t work, we now feel like everyone in our family is winning from being involved with the community.
Do you have any thoughts on what sports you would try for kids with autism?