Submitted by Jennifer Davies, Special to MSBL

Sporting activity for children with autism is both essential and challenging. In fact, two-thirds of teens with autism are overweight, according to a report in Finding Balance: Obesity and Children with Special Needs, published on AbilityPath.org. Other research also shows that teens with autism are twice as likely to develop unhealthy habits and gain weight as their peers. Also, children on the spectrum may find fitness difficult, due to over-sensitivity to sights and sounds, and delays in motor skills. But even in the face of these challenges, it is important to find ways to help kids participate and enjoy sports. This is where baseball comes in. Starting with the slower-paced atmosphere and the fresh air setting, baseball offers a welcoming environment for everyone. Here’s how baseball can benefit children on the autism spectrum.

Develops Fine Motor Skills: Many individuals with autism have low fitness skills, experiencing problems with balance, visual-motor control, body coordination, and other mobility skills. Not to mention, most kinds of physical activities and the social opportunities they afford require motor skills like running, throwing and catching. For this reason, giving your children active toys like sports equipment for baseball will help them to develop their major muscle groups and hone their skills before taking to the pitch. Just be sure that all toys meet safety standards and are aimed at the right age group for your child.

Encourages Social Communication: What better way to socialize and build communication than a game of catch? Socialization can be tricky, but baseball allows a steady pace and a fairly calm environment to communicate, compared to many other sports. There’s plenty of time to share and build relationships during practice and in the dugout. After all, feeling like part of a team can boost a child’s confidence and promote a healthy sense of well-being. 

Builds Resilience: Playing on a team can be especially challenging for individuals with autism. There may be times when they aren’t sure how to relate to or communicate with the other players. As a result, this can cause frustration, anxiety and discomfort. However, learning how to work through these feelings can lead to better resilience and growth and help them out in other social situations.

If you’re looking to get your child involved with baseball, a good way to get started is by playing together for fun. Whether you’re playing a game of catch or practicing their swing, your child will build both physical and social skills throughout the process. As an added bonus, the experience of playing ball together will help build strong family connections and allow an opportunity to spend quality time together.