Autistic Children Benefit From Structured Sports
> 8/4/2006 3:33:28 PM

Many autistic children have trouble obeying simple instructions and interacting with peers- and for this reason, they were largely excluded from school sports for many years. In increasing numbers, however, both parents and educators find that organized athletics are extremely beneficial to autistic kids and that greater efforts should be made to include them in such activities. A recent New York Times article reports on the increasing presence of adapted sports programs, or athletic groups designed especially for children with mental and physical disabilities. The article states the commonly accepted fact that excluding the children from these activities will certainly not leave them better conditioned for the outside world.

Though it is often very difficult for these kids to adapt to team sports and the cooperative play required, more independent sports like swimming, running, and martial arts have been proven to reduce the occurance of certain obsessive behaviors common to autistic patients, like violent spasms and repeated gestures. Cases like that of autistic basketball star/ future film subject Jason McElwain give hope to parents of children with similar conditions.

While some will certainly throw around insensitive comments (maliciously or not), most students welcome autistic children in their athletic organizations, and the fact that these kids have the opportunity to compete is the most important issue. Isolating autistic children will only reinforce the often cruel tendency of some uneducated individuals to focus on their perceived deficiencies rather than encouraging them to join the social communities of which they are an essential part.

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