Gymnastics: An Effective Tool For Aiding In An Autistic Child's Growth And Development
Gymnastics is not only good for keeping kids active and healthy, but the sport also provides a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) opportunities to achieve, be successful in school, and develop new skills. The sport isn't just about learning to how walk a balance beam, tumble, or do a back flip. Participation in gymnastics helps children improve in other developmental areas. Gymnastics can give your child with ASD the opportunity to grow and develop both by doing and watching what others do.
Motor Skills Development
Gymnastics provides physical exercise that helps children with ASD improve their fine and gross motor skills. Activities such as running, jumping, rolling, and tumbling help develop a child's gross motor skills. Gymnastics activities that develop and strengthen the large muscles in the shoulders, arms, and trunk also provide a foundation for developing fine motor skills such as writing, using scissors, and manipulating other small objects with the fingers.
For kids with ASD who have sensory issues, the sport of gymnastics offers an environment filled with activities that provide sensory stimulation. While most kids love to move and be active, those with ASD particularly like to play games that provide repetitive motions and strong sensory feedback. One study found that children with ASD prefer to engage in activities that stimulate the senses and involve a lot of movement – both something that gymnastics provides.
Gymnastics is a sport that involves the vestibular and proprioceptive senses, as the activities focus on motion, balance, and control over the limbs. Kids with autism often have sensory problems that contribute to stimming behaviors such as spinning, rocking, and hand-flapping. Since the tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive senses play key roles in how a child responds to stimuli in his or her environment, gymnastics activities help kids with ASD become more aware of their bodies and how they move.
Development of Social Skills
Gymnastics gives kids with ASD the opportunity to develop their social skills by providing opportunities to communicate with coaches and other children. These interactions with others help them develop their language and speech skills. As a result, they become more confident when interacting with their peers in other settings, including in school and at neighborhood playgrounds. As children with autism develop their social skills, they learn additional skills like:
Listening to others
Making eye contact
The skills that children execute in gymnastics require concentration and focus – abilities they can then extend to environments outside of the gym, including the classroom. Children learn by exploring, and gymnastics provides a structured environment that gives them the opportunity to learn at their own pace. This is particularly important for children with ASD for whom developmental delays are common.
Gymnastics gives kids with autism an environment in which they can use their creativity. Since it's an individual rather than a team sport and requires fewer nonverbal communication skills, your child can excel at gymnastics without feeling the pressure of communicating socially. By participating in gymnastics, your child with autism will have opportunities to: connect with other children, be respected by teammates, build his or her physical skills and self-esteem, and have fun besides. Contact a business in your area that offers gymnastics for kids if you have a child with autism spectrum disorder.