Regular exercise is important for children, and children with autism are no exception. Physical exercise increases strength and endurance, but it also makes the brain work better.
Children with autism tend to be less physically active than kids who do not have developmental or learning disabilities. For most children with autism, physical activity is not part of their regular prescribed routine. Instead, parent’s focus is usually on helping children speak, make an eye contact or behave in social situations.
However, physical exercise for children with autism spectrum disorder can have additional behavioral benefits if specific precautions and techniques are used. Aside from developing motor skills, regular physical activity can significantly contribute to improving social communication, attention and academic performance.
With that said, let’s look into top 5 benefits of exercises and sports for children with autism:
1. Decreases stereotypical behaviors
According to several studies, vigorous exercise (at least 20 minutes or more, at least 3 times a week) can decrease stereotypical (hyperactivity, self-injury, self-stimulatory, and destructiveness) behaviors among children.
You won’t see results overnight, of course, but over time, you’ll notice considerable improvements in your child.
2. Improves social skills
It’s a known fact that children with autism have difficulty engaging with their friends in a social setting.
There are several reasons for this: inability to connect with others socially, suffering from social anxiety, poor verbal (communication) skills, low self-esteem, among other reasons.
But when kids engage in some form of sports (or exercise) they begin to build their social skills with their teammates, work together to achieve a shared-goals, and build self-confidence.
Besides, participating in sports give them a sense of being part of a team, playing their role to bring something of value to others in society, which they may not get to do otherwise.
3. Helps establish routines
As parents of children with a spectrum disorder, you know how incredibly important are routines for them.
By encouraging your children to play sports or exercise regularly, you slowly yet surely incorporate physical activities into their daily life so that their transition to new-healthy-routine becomes smooth.
So how do you establish a routine into your children’s lives?
The answer is easy – ask your children which sports they enjoy the most (going out for a long walk or playing sports they love playing) and introduce those activities into their routine.
4. Improves focus
Children with autism have a tough time staying attentive in the classroom and at home.
Due to their stereotypical behaviors, they often become distracted.
However, by introducing simple exercises (or some sports activities) in their daily routine can dramatically help reduce their stereotypical behaviors and improve their focus.
Besides, having your children join a sports activity will also help them build teamwork skills and enhance their listening skills to follow instructions from team members to get things together, quicker.
5. Shreds extra pounds easily
Autistic children have a higher chance of having obesity and a higher chance that obesity might turn into more chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and joint and bone problems.
There’s a reason for this: children with spectrum disorders often tend to lead an inactive lifestyle, making them much more difficult to maintain a healthier weight.
However, helping your loved ones implement an active lifestyle from an early age (by incorporating exercise routines and sports activities) can help them maintain a healthier weight, effortlessly.