The benefits of letting your children run, play, and learn different sports are well known by most parents. Physical activity becomes especially important in children with autism.
Research has shown that autistic children run an increased risk at developing obesity, and in turn, further health problems later into adulthood. Physical activity has also been shown to decrease physical tics such as head-nodding or tapping objects. Improved attention span and decreased aggression have also been shown to be results of physical activity.
While these behavioral and cognitive benefits are great consequences of physical activity, the simple benefit of improving motor skills is extremely valuable to autistic children who deal with this challenge.
While team sports tend to present a challenge to autistic children, they also present an especially valuable opportunity in improving social abilities. When engaging in sports it is necessary to caution some increased risks for physical injury, and in some cases, running away if not carefully attended.
Environment is another key factor to consider when breaking theses barriers to fitness. Loud gyms or wide open spaces can be places of intimidation or triggering noises for autistic children. Special Olympics or other special physical education programs that provide more one on one attention are great options to consider. They provide a an ideal setting but may be hard to come by and may take some researching of resources near you.
There are also options you can use in your own home. If your child likes playing games on a platform such as the Nintendo Wii, invest in some games that challenge them and get their heart rate going. If you have a contained yard, playing yard games such as tag or getting creative with field sports such as Frisbee or football can be helpful.
Swimming has been found to be an especially great activity for autistic children. The limited space and potential for numerous activities provides and excellent environment for children to be active and get the exercise they need.
Keep exploring different options and continue to be active with your child.