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It is important for individuals on the autism spectrum to enjoy sports and leisure activities outside of school and home to build relationships with common interests, interact with peers, and have a physical outlet. Participation in such programs can contribute to the positive development of physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle, self-confidence and self-esteem, motor skills, social skills, and sportsmanship. Social opportunities allow a person on the autism spectrum to make friends and practice essential skills in a natural environment. It may be best to start with smaller groups and then when ready, the size of the group and the duration of the activity can increase. Organized athletics have many benefits, but a healthy lifestyle does not have to include sports. Activities can include crafting groups, transition groups, choirs, gaming groups, and many more. What is most important is realizing that physical and leisure activities can be fun. Whether you choose a special needs or inclusive team/activity, be sure to carefully assess the program and select one that meets the individual needs of the participant. Below is a list to keep in mind when looking for recreational sports and leisure activities. About The Participant:
- Does the participant want to be in a team sport or do they do better in individual activities?
- How much interaction does the attendee enjoy before it becomes too overwhelming?
- Does he/she do better with just a few other individuals or do they prefer larger groups?
- What activities do they enjoy?
- If possible, avoid activities during times of the day that they seem to have a hard time (i.e. if they need time to decompress after school or work, do not schedule an activity until later in the evening).
- Consider the characteristics such as activity level, maturity, level of focus, and special accommodations necessary.
- Does the coach/leader have experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum?
- What is the coach to participant ratio?
- How long and how often are games, practices, or events?
- Does the attendee enjoy the program?
- Does the coach show enthusiasm and good sportsmanship?
- Are modifications made to meet the needs of each individual?
- Is the equipment that is used safe and in good working condition?
- Is the facility kept clean and in good working order?
- Does everyone have a chance to participate?