The benefits of exercise for kids (with Autism)

We all know that exercise if good for you – no matter what your age! Exercise for children with autism goes one step further. Not just does exercise for kids (with autism) promote the obvious health benefits but it can help them engage with their environment, it can lead to better sensory integration, it strengthens their muscles which in return improves academic performance.

Full body exercises are best for children with an autism spectrum disorder. Full body exercises increase the child’s co-ordination skills and heighten their body awareness – both aspects with which our children really struggle. As little as 15 minutes a day can make a huge difference and will even help decrease stereotypical autistic behaviours to an extent.

Overall, we have found that physical activity programs for any youth on the spectrum produces large benefits in a variety of important areas. Hyperactivity and aggression have also proven to reduce in children that get regular exercise.
Getting started with a physical fitness program for your autistic child can be as easy as going for a walk with your child. Here are a few other ideas that you may want to consider incorporating into your daily route:

  • Swimming is a great form of exercise and most autistics love water so get them swimming from a young age.
  • Jumping on a trampoline. Another activity that autistic children love participating in. Jumping has many benefits including sensory integration.
  • Horse ride or equestrian therapy has many benefits.
  • Dancing can be as easy as moving your body to your autistic child’s favourite songs and singing along will further help their social communication skills develop.
  • Move in different ways (jump, hop, skip or even run)
  • Exergaming (e.g. Nintendo Wii and other electronic games that involve physical activity)
  • Get your child to help carry items for you. The heavier the item the better. It encourages the use of more muscles.
  • Ball games are not just great for exercise they also help develop co-ordinations and group participation
  • Climbing on jungle gyms and encourage time on the monkey bars

When children engage in sports activities they tend to build relationships with teammates, work with others to accomplish goals and build confidence all whilst getting fit and healthy. Recreational activities such as sport also allow the child to feel like that have a role in society and for them it is just as important to fit in as it is for each of us.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.