When parenting a child with autism, incorporating organized movement into your child’s daily routine is a positive way to inspire holistic health and wellness while supporting his individual learning style. After all, children on the autism spectrum are still kids and they like to run, play, and kick a soccer ball like everyone else. They just need to be taught based on their motor skill level.
Even though many children with autism struggle with their motor skills, dozens of small studies suggest that, aside from boosting motor skills, sensory and movement-based therapies may improve social communication, attention, behavioral issues, and academic performance.
According to Kathy Ralabate Doody, PhD., assistant professor of exceptional education at SUNY Buffalo State, children with autism spectrum disorder prefer activities that offer a generous amount of sensory feedback. Such activities include dancing to music with props for increased sensory appeal or throwing beanbags into containers from a distance to help with touch and coordination.
You can also offer your child a tactile experience by giving them a bowl with beans and empty cups to fill or you can set up pouring activities using various substances like water, sand, and rice. Experiment and find what works best for your child.
Simple movement-based activities can be beneficial for your child with ASD. Performing these exercises with repetition is an important part of the process and consistency is critical. Here are a few gross motor activities you can do with your child to help improve balance while developing important motor skills.
- Blowing and catching bubbles
- Singing and performing the “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” song
- Jumping on a trampoline
- Catch with large or small balls
- Balloon volleyball
- Kicking a playground or other ball
- Ride a tricycle or bicycle
- Crawling through tunnels
- Imitate animal movements (i.e. gallop, waddle, hop)
- Balance on one leg
- Creating an obstacle course where they crab walk, bear crawl, roll, and climb
- Fitness activities that encourage full body movement.
- Playing Simon Says (a great game that allows your child to imitate by following your instructions)
Fine Motor Activities
By helping your child develop their fine motor skills through fun activities they will learn eye motor control, manual dexterity, and hand-eye coordination, among other things. These activities are among the most helpful in achieving this:
- Creating with Play Doh or silly putty
- Snapping buttons and zipping zippers
- Finger painting on paper or poster board
- Creating stories on felt boards
- Beading string to make bracelets
- Play musical instruments, like recorders, xylophones, or drums.
- Twisting lids off and on
- Doing jigsaw puzzles
- Coloring, drawing, and writing
- Cutting shapes from construction paper
While it doesn’t seem like fitness to focus on some of the fine motor activities, these little nuances help them to develop the skills necessary to become more in control and thus more active. While therapy is important for children with autism, don’t forget to make time for fitness. Exercise matters to every child’s well-being regardless of skill or ability.
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