There is lots of research showing the importance of exercise, especially for individuals on the autism spectrum. Team sports can not only be a great source of exercise, but it also helps kids begin to learn the importance of team work. The problem is, however, that many kids on the spectrum have a hard time with team sports in particular and parents are left looking for other ideas to get their children moving. Below is a list of activities that may help:
Martial Arts: Many parents have reported to us the great success their children have had in martial arts classes. Check around in your area because there are often many instructors who have experience in working with individuals on the spectrum. Karate, Taekwondo, and other martial arts are great options because classes are often very structured and the rules are clearly spelled out. Also, kids are able to focus on developing their own skills and still have the social interaction of working with others and establishing relationships with peers in the program.
Swimming and Other Water Sports: So many of our kids are fish in the water! Swimming is a great individual sport to get kids active. Many swim clubs have instructors who work with individuals with special needs in private lessons and many of our kids also excel on swim teams. Again being part of a team can be a great experience, but the child can focus solely on his/her individual performance and event. My brother who lives at the beach also told me about different surf programs for children on the spectrum. Surf Heeling is one such program that provides summer camp opportunities in several different states: http://www.surfershealing.org/
Smart Cycle: Smart Cycle is a Plug-and-Play game where you hook the cycle up to your T.V and kids can play educational games while peddling and getting valuable exercise. The Smart Cycle is geared towards preschool age children and a parent recently told me that this option has worked great for her son who is not an "outdoorsy kind of guy." So many kids on the spectrum excel in and have an interest in letter and numbers so it can really build upon their strengths. Also there are lots of fun games, such Dora and Sponge Bob, which are favorite characters of many!
Trampolines: Trampolines and mini trampolines are often favorites for many on the autism spectrum, regardless of age. I recently came across a post on the Wrong Planet website (a forum for individuals with Autism and Asperger's) and one adult recently posted on the discussion board that he loves his and that it helps him get rid of "nervous energy" and to him it feels "like swinging," which is another activity that many individuals on the spectrum enjoy. This can be a great stress relief activity for people of all ages!
Nintendo Wii: We all know that so many kids, adolescents, and adults on the spectrum often excel in video games and if it were up to them, they might spend all of their time doing just that! It may be impossible to throw video games out the window, although if you are a parent who struggles to get your child often the system and doing something else, you'd probably like to! The Nintendo Wii can be a comprise and a good option to increase activity and coordination. It uses a motion-sensored controller that requires you to mimic the motion of the activity or sport. Again, there are many game options to appeal to all ages.
This list is by no means conclusive so please write in with ideas that have worked for you or for your children. Remember, "like us" on facebook also and you will be entered into our drawing to win seamless socks and undies. Who knows these may even help to make aerobic activity more comfortable?! Can't wait to hear from you!