Resources

Choosing Between Individual and Team Sports

No comments

Most A4A parents are highly dedicated to their child, which is an amazing — yet sometimes stressful — job. We remind all participating parents that kids just need to be kids — “let them be little” — and they’ll navigate themselves to the most comfortable situation for them. Parents do not need to direct their child into one specific sport, with the intention that they’ll play that same sport the entire season. We want Athletes 4 Autism sessions to be exploratory and give children a chance to decide for themselves at their own pace.

In general, children on the autism spectrum who are quiet and introverted tend to prefer starting with an individual sport. Running is a great example. We practice walking, then jogging, then sprinting as solo activities. We work on form and speed first. Then, we might attempt games of “tag” with their athlete mentor. When those go well, we might encourage learning how to do relay races. When our buddies love relay races, they will naturally want to add more people to the race, so that the race doesn’t end as quickly. It’s all organic to the idea of PLAY.

Some children, on the contrary, are much more active and social at the outset. We find that children with autism who might be “missing social cues” regularly are the ones who gravitate to the group sports first. If your child tends to love attention, or want to be the dominant leader of the activity, then group sports will be a natural fit. Our goal might be to work toward more individualized playing, or waiting turns, or learning how to contribute to a group quietly. For goals like this, we might suggest soccer. Practicing your kicks individually allows you to become a better team player, and when its an appropriate time, like “game time”, we share our skills toward the success of the team.

No matter the sport, the important part of playing is showing up, doing your best, and always having fun.

To help you and your child navigate some sport benefits, check the partial following list:

GYMNASTICS

Sensory Benefits:

  • Lower and upper body proximal stability and weigh shifting
  • A huge dose of proprioceptive input, including joint traction and compression from hanging on bars to tumbling and jumping on the trampoline
  • Vestibular input in various planes of movement, including inverting the head
  • Additional vestibular input via balance
  • Motor planning and bilateral integration
  • Promotes body awareness and body in space
  • Promotes full body flexion and prone extension

Factors to Consider:

  • May be a good choice for a sensory defensive child since it is not as loud and chaotic as some other sports choices
  • Being indoors, keep in mind the echo factor and the added olfactory input (smells)
  • Often predictable and routine driven by the class structure

 

HOCKEY

Sensory Benefits:

  • HUGE amount of proprioception from the weight of the gear to the falling, checking, and crashing in to the boards
  • Constant vestibular input from skating, in various planes of movement and shifting of body position
  • Constant balance, lower body proximal stability, and weight shifting
  • Visual motor development, eye-hand and eye-foot
  • Motor planning and bilateral integration
  • Body awareness and body in space

Factors to Consider:

  • Excellent for sensory seekers who need constant input
  • Might be too loud, bright and/or too fast paced for some children
  • Very challenging sport to learn, not appropriate for all children
  • Not predictable or routine oriented

 

SOCCER

Sensory Benefits:

  • Vestibular input from running and constant shifting of body position
  • Visual motor development via eye-foot coordination
  • Bilateral integration and motor planning
  • Body awareness and body in space
  • Balance and lower body proximal stability and weight shifting

Factors to Consider:

  • May not be the best choice for a child with tactile defensiveness due to the brushing and bumping of bodies
  • Can be an excellent choice for a sensory seeker due to the constant movement
  • Keep in mind the outdoor sensory stimuli: sun, people using loud outdoor voices, whistles, wind, possible extreme temperature differences
  • Playing the sport itself is somewhat unpredictable in nature

 

BASEBALL/T-BALL

Sensory Benefits:

  • Visual motor development
  • Joint traction to the arms with throwing the ball and swinging of the bat
  • Bilateral coordination and crossing midline
  • Vestibular and proprioceptive input, but not as much as some other sports choices

Factors to Consider:

  • May not be the best choice for a sensory seeker since there is quite a bit of time spent waiting or in a stationary position
  • A good choice for children needing a sport that is not too fast-paced
  • Keep in mind the outdoor sensory stimuli: Bright sun, possible wind and sand blowing at the child from the field
  • Not as loud as some other sport choices

 

YOGA

Sensory Benefits:

  • Excellent full body proprioception, including joint traction and compression
  • Many opportunities for inverting the head
  • Excellent vestibular input via changes of body position and balance work
  • A great choice for both sensory seekers and avoiders
  • Calm, organized, structured, and soothing environment, which is great for all children
  • Excellent for working on motor planning and body awareness
  • Promotes lower body and upper body proximal stability and weight shifting
  • Encourages prone extension and supine flexion through the different poses

Factors to Consider:

  • Typically a nice calm and quiet, soothing environment
  • Very routine oriented, predictable
  • Good for both sensory seekers and avoiders
  • A great choice all around!

 

RUNNING

Sensory Benefits:

  • An excellent source of proprioceptive and vestibular input
  • Lower body proximal stability and weight shifting
  • Bilateral integration
  • Joint compression through the spine and lower body

Factors to Consider:

  • Self-paced
  • Very predictable and rhythmical which can be very soothing and regulating for the nervous system
  • Some may prefer the sport in a racing type setting, or just a personal experience
  • Low stimuli environment compared to some sport choices

DANCE

Sensory Benefits:

  • Proprioception via stretching and joint compression and traction
  • Vestibular input in various planes with many changes in head and body position
  • Promotes body awareness and body in space
  • Motor planning
  • Works on auditory processing while dancing to the music
  • Facilitates prone extension and full flexion

Factors to Consider:

  • May have too many competing sounds for some children, hearing the teacher instruct and the music at the same time.
  • Routine oriented which is often calming and soothing for the nervous system
  • Self-expression which may be very therapeutic for the child
  • Keep in mind the large mirrors may be uncomfortable and overwhelming for some children

SWIMMING

Sensory Benefits:

  • Incredible dose of full body proprioception
  • Vestibular input from constant changing of body position and head position
  • Encourages prone extension and full flexion
  • Bilateral integration and motor planning
  • Oral motor and respiration control

Factors to Consider:

  • The smell of an indoor pool can be overwhelming to some children
  • The overall setting can be unpredictable and quite multi-sensory with the tactile input from splashing and auditory input from all of the children
  • An excellent choice for sensory seekers and to promote self-regulation

 

TRACK AND FIELD

Sensory Benefits:

  • A great source of vestibular and proprioceptive input
  • Motor planning, crossing midline, and bilateral integration
  • Tactile input depending on the track and field event
  • Upper body and lower body proximal stability and weight shifting

Factors to Consider:

  • Self-paced and flexible when it comes to choosing the best event for the child
  • Being outdoors, keep in mind the sun, wind, temperature as possible challenges
  • The competition and timed factor may be too stressful for some children
athletes4autismChoosing Between Individual and Team Sports

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *