Face it. Aspergers kids don’t fit in very well. They over think things, they talk too slow or too fast, they might twitch or have funny routines, and they’re missing the critical sense of social timing. One thing that can have a huge impact in making their lives seem a little more normal is sports.
The hardest part is identifying a sport that they’ll take to! My twelve year old still can’t ride a bike …. And we know of children who refuse to learn to swim. But instead of throwing in the towel and categorizing them as unfit for sports, I’d recommend starting as early as possible to find a sport that they like.
Sports programs in a sense are like inexpensive occupational and group therapy all together! We’re talking high functioning Aspergers kids here, not Autistic kids who require way more supervision. My son is quirky. He’s a satellite child who functions on the edge of groups. But put a uniform on him and he’s one of the team players.
We’ve tried a number of sports over the years, and the beginning was, admittedly, a little rocky. There were our fair share of meltdowns on the soccer field, to be sure, but the benefit far exceeded the pain.
We went through the typical swimming, soccer, and gymnastics and then added lacrosse, bow fishing, riding, hip hop and, get this, Irish step dancing. I mentioned quirky, right?
Parents of young children, take note! Every activity adds to their ability to function in a social environment. I love group sports! And yes, you might have to be there every minute of every practice in the early years. You never know when you might have to intervene. Now, though, I get to drop him off at rec centers and practice fields and don’t have to be there anymore. We put in our time early, intensively coaching social skills, guiding emotional outbursts, practicing coping skills and now are able to back off.
With the sports you get:
• involved parent coaches, or paid instructors, who try to get everyone to get along;
• You get physical activities that help structure and organize your child’s brain neurons;
• Better balance, posture, and muscle tone;
• Endomorphin release and good feelings!
I know that Steven is better balanced and has better posture because of the activities he’s been through. He’s more fit physically and graceful. People react to him differently And his improved comfort in his own body makes him more comfortable in social environments. It’s an amazing package deal that works in a positive cyclical manner. We still had OT, PT, and therapy going on and off for many years. I’m guessing the sports complimented and possibly shortened the need for professional involvement.