By Nitin Bindlish
Playing sports is a great way to stay healthy and active, while learning the much-requisite social skills. Children with autism take a bit longer than other kids to learn and adapt social skills. Sports and recreational activities play an important role in the development of the autistic child. These activities help in building physical and mental strength, determination and endurance among children. As every kid is unique in their diagnosis, similarly their requirements will also vary. Parents must look for the ideal sports which will be helpful for their child.
Motivate and inspire your children to participate in more team sports activities as it involves communication, consideration, compassion, connection and then cooperation, which will be helpful for the child to indulge in building social skills.
Social skills help children with autism to learn how to act in different situations which include interacting with grandparents and friends at school. Such skills are useful for a child to learn from others, in developing hobbies and inculcate interests, improve a child’s mental health and quality of life. It also helps children to bond with family and develops a sense of belonging.
What social skills do autistic children need to learn?
It is good and important for a child with autism to develop:
Conversational Skills: It includes a basic understanding about body language, gestures and choosing what to talk about.
Emotional Skills: Developing how to understand what others feel and manage emotions.
Play Skills: Sharing toys with siblings and friends and how to take turns in a game.
Problem-solving Skills: How to deal with conflict and taking decisions in any situation.
How to use social skills in different situations
Autistic children may find it difficult to utilise social skills which they have learned in other situations. For instance, your child must be sharing his/ her belongings at home with siblings but not in school.
In such situations, parents must interact with a child’s teacher to ensure whether your child is displaying the signs of social skills. It may seem tricky to balance the time your child spends in socialising with children with autism with the time he/she spends with typically developing children. The latter can be role models as they encourage social skills in your autistic kid. And if your child shares interests and abilities with other autistic kid helps him/her to build good social relationships.
What are the ideal sports for children with autism?
Kids with autism can also play sports like any other kid. Here are a few sports that a child with autism can play that encourage their social skill development.
If your child does not want to try any new outdoor sport then introduce him/her to bowling, an indoor activity. Take them to nearby malls and centres which have exclusive bowling sports. Try to take them on weekdays when there is less crowd as it will provide them freedom to use the space. Bowling builds better body coordination.
Running is counted amongst the best physical activity both for children and adults. Besides helping in better breathing, running also makes lungs stronger, strengthens the heart and maintains the cholesterol levels with less chance of diabetes and obesity. It helps in improving the muscle development and coordination in the child. The autistic child tends to be aggressive, destructive and hyperactive. Running helps them in controlling all three.
Pick any of the martial art for your kid from Karate, Judo or Taekwondo. An autistic child socialises more when they enroll for martial arts classes. As autistic kids lack social skills, this is a great way to bond with peers. Beyond this, there are several mental and physical benefits of the activity. Parents of special needs children can introduce their kids to innovative methods to enhance their motor and social skills.
Sensory integration is crucial for every kid. So any activity that helps them in developing it is good for them. As per several experts, water is the best therapy for an autistic child. Introduce them to the pool and ask them how they feel while splashing water with their feet. As a parent, ensure that your kid is trained under an expert’s guidance as many children with autism tend to wander around in the pool which is dangerous. Keep an eye on them when they are inside the pool.
Who your child socialises with depends on how he or she relates to other children and how they relate to your child. It is crucial that their relationships should be based on understanding and acceptance.
(The writer is Founder & CEO, Mom’s Belief.)