Today’s guest blog by Vanessa Vogel-Farley of ACEing Autism explains the importance of recreational therapies for children with ASD.
Keeping children physically active and involved in activities outside of traditional therapies as they develop has proven to be very beneficial in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We know that all developmental domains are intrinsically connected and impact each other, motor development is key for social communication skills, so enhancing motor skills can help in all areas of development, especially early in life. The availability of programs that specialize in the flexibility needed for children on the spectrum has increased tremendously over the past couple years. Horseback riding, tennis, and soccer are all options. Picking the program that is right for you and your children can be tricky and expensive.
In addition, increased BMI in children with developmental disorders has become a huge issue that further complicates the life of the child as well as their families. Physical activity is a solution to this growing problem, but keeping kids with ASD active is easier said than done. As a person who has been running an Autism specific tennis program for 8 years, even getting some children on the court is nothing short of a miracle. Below are some tips I have found to be beneficial over the years.
Tips to Keep Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Active:
- Continuity from program to home- Choose a sport or activity that you can enjoy as a family outside of the organized activity. Parental enthusiasm and joy in the activity has profound effects on how a child reacts to a new activity.
- Equipment- For some kids, the thrill of getting new equipment can be a useful tool in getting and keeping them engaged. There are programs that provide equipment while participating; asking if you are able to use that equipment between sessions can help to develop your child’s interest in that activity, while saving you the money of having to buy your own set.
- Down-time- There is a lot of waiting in most childhood activities and the patience that turn taking requires is even tougher in children with ASD. Attention to task and stimming behaviors become inhibitory. We have found that physical activity or routine during the time that waiting is required is helpful to keep kids engaged an attentive to the next task. Use sit-ups, push ups, running in place, jumping jacks, toe raises, neck rolls, or anything that your child enjoys and helps to keep their heart rate up goes.
- Competition- Friendly competitions in safe environments can be easy ways to get kids active. Saying things like, “Beat you to the park,” “Race you to your room,” or “How many push-ups can we do in 30 seconds?” can increase physical activity on a daily basis as well as engaging you as a parent in a bit of a different light. The aim is to have both of your giggling by the end. Any child’s push up form is hilarious, not that mine, as an adult, is any better.
- Communication- If you choose an organized physical activity program, communication with the organizers and any one-on-one coach is essential. Goals for each child can differ so much and your satisfaction with the program and the progress within that program is so important. If you do not feel like the program, which you are paying for, is working, communicating with the organizers can turn a bad experience into a successful one.
Finding a recreational program that works for you and your child may not be financially possible or if adding another thing to your family schedule makes you want to scream, increasing physical activity at home can be easy and fun. Adding a walk after dinner or kicking a ball around for 15 minutes during the day can help to get everyone in the family more active.
Check out ACEing Autism to get your family and child with Autism moving with tennis lessons. Click here for one free class for North Shore Pediatric Therapy Affiliates!
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!