In the last post I spoke about Aquatic therapy, but there are some other creative therapies you can explore:
Autism and Horseback Riding: Horseback riding can be tricky, you’ll have to find a place near by first, and the people need to be professional, and have experience with autism; not necessarily trained but be aware of it. That aside, it’s a great sport for kids with autism. It has been clinically documented that just being around horses changes human brainwave patterns. We calm down and become more centred and focused when we are with horses, because horses are naturally empathetic. The Horse Boy Foundation – set up by a man who wrote a book about riding with his autistic son – is running a programme of summer therapy camps for autistic children and their families in Britain. Dr Nicola Martin, an autism expert at the LSE, said she thought anything that brought children and families together would have a positive effect. “It’s certainly not about healing or curing, because autism is for life, but being out in the countryside, close to nature, doing something enjoyable like interacting with horses, has got to help families come together.” When my mum tried to take Christos horseback riding he didn’t like it, so my mum ended going riding instead. I vaguely remember trying it out for him, it is a pleasant and beautiful experience. There is a special connection with animals because they can sense our intentions, so our kids find it easier to connect to them, they don’t need words. We had a dog for a couple of years, Christos rarely played with him, or walked with him but the night he went away Christos was inconsolable. It is a therapeutic activity – hippotherapy – and many autistic children excel at horsemanship. Read Horse Boy
Autism and Track: For kids with autism, track and field may be an outlet. Running, jumping and any other activity becomes an outlet for their over-activeness. Chris is always running when my dad takes him on walks. Also, track events don’t require excessive verbal communication skills. It doesn’t have to be a track, it can be a field, it can be a walk; just give them the space to run and let loose. Their overloaded senses get relieved and if their senses are less developed the fresh air and the feel of running/jumping may become a stimuli. Once they are able to release that tension they will become more cooperative, or more likely to respond to verbal communications. For example, Christos became addicted to jumping on trampolines, so much so that my dad bought him a huge trampoline which we set up in my nan’s back yard. For years, he used to go to nan’s and just jump for hours. He was so happy during and after, you wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it. Some times he wanted company, some times he didn’t. My mum also had the park in his schedule, so that he can socialise and interact with other kids that did the same. He knew he only had an hour, and the person in charge was always very supportive and let him stay on for the whole time, he never protested when it was time to go; it was on his schedule, it was a rule that could not be broken!
Autism and Bowling: Even though it’s loud, bowling seems to be a sport many kids with autism enjoy. Perhaps it’s the repetition – bowl twice, sit down – or the satisfaction of seeing the pins come crashing down, or the feel of the ball/floor. Whatever the reasons, bowling is a great sport for social events that include kids on the autism spectrum and Christos enjoys it often on school trips.
Autism and Hiking: In contrast to bowling the peace and quiet of the natural world is a great stress reliever. This is something you will need to check with your kid. Are they sensory deprived or overloaded? This will prove to be a huge help for you when planning their activities. Hiking, or just walking in nature, or a beach – which can be an individual or group activity – is an easy way to get exercise and without intense social communication. Fishing is another sport that may be of interest. The sound of the breeze, birds, insects, water and leaves as well as the feel of walking on rock, sand etc can be soothing to their senses.
Autism and Biking: Teaching Christos how to ride a bike was probably quicker than it was teaching me how to ride a bike. Some kids are super coordinated, but for some it can be tough since balance may not come naturally. He enjoyed cycling very much, gave it up for a while or refused to try, and now he’s doing it again at school. This is another good point, don’t force sports or exercise on them. Be creative and find other ways of keeping them active. Cycling, skating, roller skates, can be a wonderful ways to enjoy the outdoors and keep them occupied.
Autism and Just-for-Fun Sports: If they are willing to get involved in team sports; great! A good way to start is by playing with them just for fun. Whether it was basket ball, football, tennis, tossing the ball back and forth, or learning to skate, you’ll be building both physical and social skills if you do it together, bring in relatives, cousins neighbours slowly and see how they interact. During physical activity is a great time to introduce new things into their routine. In the long run, it’s experiences like shooting hoops with dad that will be the cornerstone of them making their school team.
It’s not on them to be good at track, bowling, horseback riding, it’s up to you to find what’s best for them. With Autism, you can never give up, you have to keep trying new things. As no two children on the spectrum are the same, it can be a long process to find what’s best for your kid but when you do, it is so rewarding.