Do autistic children enjoy sports?

We all know physical activity is important for health. But do autistic children enjoy sports? What sports do autistic children like?

Children around the world aren’t getting enough exercise, with only a third of children and teens getting the recommended amount of physical activity each day. In addition, children with autism are less likely to engage in sports and regular physical activity. This leads to an increased prevalence of obesity in autistic children. And with physical inactivity being the fourth leading cause of death globally, it’s a big deal. But do autistic children even enjoy sports?

Sports are an important part of growing up. Especially in Australia, team sports like netball, tennis, football and cricket dominate Saturday mornings and school sports. Yet team sports can be challenging for autistic children.

Why do autistic children not enjoy sports?

There are a number of reasons why team sports may not suit autistic children.

There’s the difficulty understanding complex social rules. Also, autistic children can have less developed coordination and balance compared to same-age peers. Team sports are often a sensory overload with loud noises, bright lights and annoying sirens. There are many reasons why team sports don’t always work for autistic children.

What sports can autistic children do?

Physical Activity is more than just team sports. Many autistic children love to move their bodies and be active. This is also an important part of a sensory diet for regulation. So think beyond team sports into other physical activities. Maybe they are done alone, or maybe they are done together in a non-competitive way (like group cycling or gymnastics). Perhaps they are more about individual growth so it doesn’t matter what your entry point or skill level is compared to others, like martial arts or swimming.

Check out the list of 20 Sports for Children with Autism to see if any of those ideas suit your autistic child.

We’ve personally had great success with our autistic son and being physically active through

  • cycling
  • bushwalking
  • playground play
  • swimming

Our autistic daughter enjoys

  • swimming
  • gymnastics
  • dance
  • brain break style exercises

Other autistic friends like

  • cheerleading and gymnastics
  • martial arts
  • circus arts

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