When one thinks of children playing, the image that often comes to mind is of tag on the playground, hide-and-seek, or even organized sports like soccer, baseball, or hockey.
These group activities may be more difficult for some than others. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often overlooked for these activities and sports because of the sociability symptoms associated with ASD. However, studies have shown that these children can excel at group sports when they are given the right chances.
Through ABA therapy, parents can work with their children and intervention team to find a physical activity that their child can perform well by utilizing their abilities. Participating in group physical activity also gives them a chance to practice their behavioral, social, and communicative skills while having a good time. Whether that program be a social sport like soccer or hockey, or a study in coordination such as karate or dance, it is crucial that parents enroll their child in physical activities outside of school.
According to a study by Megan McDonald and her team, children with ASD are just as athletic and capable of being fit as neurotypical children their age. The study tested aerobic fitness, flexibility, and handgrip strength and also measured height, weight, and body mass index. They concluded that the only ‘weak’ area for children with autism was in the flexibility test. Everything else was comparative.
However, a caveat in that study is that individuals with autism are more sedentary than those who do not have autism. This means that they prefer to sit and be in one spot rather than exercising. Engaging them in a physical activity they enjoy can easily change this!
This proves that all it takes to have a physically active and fit child are some proactive decisions on the parent’s part, as well as working together to find a good fit for their child.
By Sydney Chasty, Carleton University