Unfortunately, children with autism can become isolated pretty easily. Although the disability is becoming more widely recognized, those who are on the spectrum are still in the minority. It’s rare for there to be two children with autism in one class for example. Children with autism are also more likely to fall into a sedentary lifestyle, becoming more unhealthy overtime, as they begin to fixate on certain TV shows and video games and snack on foods with saturated fats and high sodium levels. The best way to remedy both of these problems is to get your child involved in sports and group activities. Here are the best group fitness activities for children with autism from the experts at Special Strong.
Baseball is a great sport for those who are new to an active lifestyle. There’s limited running around involved, so really it’s a great way to just get out of the house and spend time with other children. If you do a quick search, we’re certain you’ll find a special needs baseball team in your area. For these teams, there will be someone to help guide the bat and direct the players where to run, when necessary.
If your child is on the spectrum but has relatively strong body awareness, then basketball might be a fun sport for them. The teams in basketball are fairly small, so it’s less likely that they’ll be overwhelmed. However, you’re of course more aware of your child’s triggers than we are. Use your best judgement when deciding the best group fitness activities for children with autism for your child.
Golf is a good activity, no matter one’s placement on the spectrum. It’s slow-paced but involves quite a bit of walking, if you opt out of using the golf cart. It also involves sharp concentration, which can be a fun challenge for children with autism. You can vary the group size, making it smaller if you’re worried about how too many other children will make your child feel. You can also join a community golf team to have your child be introduced to new kids, if you think that’s best!
Children with autism often have balancing issues because many people with autism also have issues with the vestibular system (located in the inner ear). Yoga can be challenging but also beneficial in learning balancing techniques. Many yoga postures are also compressive, which can be a pleasant feeling for your child with sensory issues. Another great thing about yoga is that there’s little to no interaction with others during the class, but there can be time for visiting after. This is great for children who are overwhelmed easily be interacting with strangers.
Bowling is another slow-paced group activity that could really open up your child with autism. It could open them up to new friendships and to a new way to stay active. Bowling is a low-stress game that can still be a low level workout because you have to control a weighted ball at various angles in order to play. Try it with your kid and see if they like it!
Similar to yoga but to a lesser degree, martial arts classes allow for limited engagement with others while class is in session. Martial arts stresses individual triumphs, rather than teamwork. While your child is working independently on themselves, however, they still have the opportunity to make new friends from their class after each lesson.
Hiking & Biking Groups
Group activities outdoors can be especially beneficial for children with autism because so many of their senses are engaged during this time. The breeze on their skin, the warmth from the sun, the feeling of their bodies working to move them from one place to another, the scenery — all work together for a fun group activity. Just join a hiking group or biking group in your area!
The type of team involvement will vary depending on what type of dance class you sign your child up for. For example, ballet involves quite a bit of cooperation and teamwork, as everyone has to move together to make the dance tell a story. However, hip hop dance classes can be more individual. Consider your kid’s triggers and interests when choosing the right dance class for them.
Swimming can be a great group activity for children with autism. It’s a full-body workout that offers both cardio and resistance training. If you’re child doesn’t know how to swim, you can sign them up for a class, which can be a great opportunity for them to make new friends. Do a quick search and see if there are any special needs swimming groups in your area.
Of course, the Special Olympics is a unique opportunity to merge fitness and connect with other children who have special needs. The Special Olympics is open to all ages, and it’s a really rewarding experience. Each sport is fitted to each child’s ability level, so their strengths are celebrated over their “weaknesses.” More than a great workout, the Special Olympics offers a sense of community that lasts for much longer than the season.
Group Fitness Classes
For children who are interested in general fitness (for weight loss, strength training, or just to stay healthy), group fitness classes can be a great way to achieve that goal and make new friends. At Special Strong, we offer group fitness classes in the way of boot camp (which sounds hard, but is just the right amount of challenging!). We work with children as young as eight. Sign up today for the best group fitness activities for children with autism.