Sporting Activities - Want your child to try out new sporting activities? There is NO reason not to.
This article was provided by Kerry Williams, mother of Sam and Hope for Autism West Hertfordshire group member.

Back to school – The start of a new term, new school year or new school is often a stressful, anxious and exciting time for many of our children.

Sporting Activities
No sporting activity should ever be ‘out of bounds’ for children with Autism:


I used to make the assumption that my son Sam (age 10 and diagnosed with Autism from an early age) would never cope or manage with the demands of a sporting activity, especially once he started school. For starters, many sports require turn taking, engaging in teams (which brings its own problems of competitiveness) and Sam‘s fear of not being picked for a any team until last. He also had huge anxieties based on his fear of being injured whilst doing any sport. However I was wrong. If you can find the right provider for an activity which caters and understands the needs of children with ASD – there will be an activity you can try and explore with your child to see if it is a sport they will:
a) get a lot from in terms of improving overall health and core stability
b) raise self confidence and self esteem as the more they want to participate in this activity, the better they will become at it and their sporting skills develops.
For Sam, the off chance of managing to coax him on to a large trampoline at a holiday centre has led to Sam becoming really confident not just to trampoline but in a willingness to try other sporting activities. Research has shown that children with Autism can benefit from regular exercise and that trampolining particularly can provide many additional benefits. NAS have listed it as one of their many strategies to try in order to give sensory stimulation. See their website for more details


  The activity of trampolining can provide children with a great sense of fun and well-being. Being outside allows children to get fresh air and sunlight, both of which provide their own health benefits. And allowing peers / siblings to join in with the trampoline fun can also help to provide huge social benefits to children with Autism. Moreover, Clare Stockley cites from her research on the ‘The Free Good Curriculum’, that the simple action of safe bouncing skills allows children to develop better control of their gross motor skills, explore their space and can present as happier and more relaxed after a trampolining session. For some on the autistic spectrum trampolining is no less than liberating. From the activity being ‘Free time bouncing’ can follow communication from an adult to widen the movements into more disciplined ones which will also help them transfer new skills into other physical activities. But the beauty of trampolining is the absence of the need to think artistically and children are able to bounce with the freedom of non-rigid creativity. If you are thinking of buying a trampoline for your children to use it is very important to ensure that you choose one with an enclosure or tent. This will ensure that your children can bounce, jump or play on the trampoline without the worry of injury. There is a good selection of Skyhigh Trampolines here.

Whatever the sport - give it a try


However there are many activities you may wish to ‘step a toe in ‘to see if that could become the sport of choice for your child. Out and About is a charity which seeks to promote inclusion in leisure activities in the East of England. They achieve this by supporting leisure providers in meeting the needs of disabled children and young people (through training and advice), as well as providing volunteers who support people with disabilities in their chosen activity. Their main objective is to enable disabled children and young people to participate in, and be included in, leisure activities of their choosing. Past activities have included Archery, cinemas, football, golf, guides and scouts, cookery, horse riding, karate, sailing, shopping, bowling, dancing, swimming, table tennis, games, trampolining, and youth clubs. This link will take you to page of over 20 sporting activities, including fishing, horse riding, martial arts and archery. It’s website lists 687 providers from 124 categories.

Cycling is a usually a big fear and an activity of avoidance for young people with autism. Sam worries about being seen with stabilisers and has moments of sheer panic if we even suggest their removal. He will sit in his seat but that is about it. The Watford Cycle Hub - has now voiced interest in taking the lessons they provide for women only to children with disabilities. From Sam’s confidence which has grown from trampolining, in shedding his initial fears that all sports lead to injuries, we now have a son who will bounce freely on a massive trampoline without any inhibition. Through trampolining Sam becomes liberated, animated and happy…so bring on that bike……..

Back to school
Here are some ideas to help make the transition go more smoothly.

You may like to consider providing the new teacher with a one page synopsis or passport about your child.
You could include:

  Challenges that may not be obvious,
Stress signs,
Stress triggers,
Suggestions to reduce anxiety
Strengths and Interests (ie. how the teacher can use them to orchestrate successful experiences).

Building a relationship and rapport with your child’s new school or teacher can also be challenging for us parents too. Below are a few suggestions that may help create a positive working relationship:

  Look for opportunities to show appreciation and support to all school staff who go out of their way to help your child be successful.
Remember that start of a new term is a very busy period for teachers and that they will need time to get to know your child and they will make mistakes.
Try to be approachable and supportive even if they get it wrong.
Remember you do know your child best.
Be prepared to share your experiences of what works well at home so the teacher has something to go on and can adapt or incorporate strategies that work into the school environment.
Explain to the teacher that many of our children do not transfer skills/behaviour between home and school so it is important that both school and home communicate.
Encourage discussions with school about ways they can help your child and ways you can support them to do so.
Try to make sure you don’t always pop into see the teacher when things go wrong, pop in and tell them the positives too!!

For next year, some things you can try before the school year ends:

  Often meeting with your child’s new teacher and visiting their new classroom helps reduce some of the anxieties and gives you the chance to discuss your child's support needs with the new teacher in advance.
If your child is helped by visual supports, perhaps taking photos of the new teacher and classroom that they can refer to over the holidays can help them to adapt to the changes at their own pace.

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