Exercise, and some form of structured physical activity, is great for any kid—especially kids on the ASD spectrum. Don’t go with the stuff that’s too structured or competitive with complicated rules. Start slow. A few good sports to start with are ice-skating, horseback riding, swimming, or soccer. Stay away from baseball and football for now. Not that you have to give them up. Just work up to it. These other sports have the luxury of allowing your kid some space, competition and pacing without overstimulation, while giving them some community contact within the sport. Again, don’t assume that you can’t get your kid into these sports because no one will want them, or it’s just too expensive.
- First, call the center you want to take them to. Sometimes it’s as easy as looking up your local place in your Yellow Pages or Google—or talk to other parents at your kid’s school. Talk to the director of the program. Explain your situation, and the steps that you will need to do to help their transition.
Again, remember. Most people will claim their place is “autism friendly,” or that their people are. They don’t even know what that means. Generally they will say, “oh yes!” but have no concept of what they agreed to. Ask them to define what they think it means. You’ll be a little surprised at the varying definitions you’ll get from people. So, you might have to educate them a little and be a little specific. Sometimes people just don’t get it. It doesn’t mean they’re necessarily trying to be jerks. Some are, but you can just learn to ignore them. But they can’t discriminate against your kid for their ASD.
- Make a list of questions that are particular to your kid and their personality. Do too many lights or loud noises freak them out? Is it too many people too close? Do they have instructors that can handle a kid with special needs? Do they allow a therapist or behavioralist to accompany your kid? This is important, because sometimes it may be necessary for them to be there to facilitate the transition. Now, they might not be able to go on the ice, or in the water, but to be there to assist in prompts, redirection and heading off behaviors—and to give the instructor a hand in how to understand your kids’ particular needs. Sometimes you might need to get a letter from the center, stating the necessity of having someone there from the agency to have the outing approved. Always make sure that it doesn’t violate the company’s insurance policy—and to get the wording correct, you will probably have to either write the letter yourself for their review and signature, or provide them with notes and the correct verbiage to include. Handily enough, we provide an example of letters in Appendix C at the back of our book. How lucky is that?
- You will probably have to pay for private lessons. Yes, they are expensive. Yes, it sucks you are forced to do so, when nobody else has to. And yes, most people don’t have that kind of money to fork over, especially with all the other special costs you’re already incurring.