10 Autism-friendly Sports: Discover the Benefits of These Inclusive Sports

10 Autism-friendly Sports: Discover the Benefits of These Inclusive Sports

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Can you play sports with ASD?

Autism-friendly sports: Engaging in physical activities and sports offers benefits that are too significant to overlook. These activities not only lay the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle but also foster development and impart lifelong lessons that are beneficial for everyone, including individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Participating in sports and being active can significantly enhance one’s physical, mental, and social well-being.

However, parents and caregivers should consider certain factors when it comes to autism and sports. Challenges such as difficulties with motor coordination, social interaction issues, sensory sensitivities, and cognitive rigidity might make some sports less suitable for children on the autism spectrum.

For those wondering, “Can you play sports with ASD?” The answer is an emphatic yes! It’s crucial to understand your child’s unique needs before introducing them to any sport. To assist you in this endeavor, we at ABA Centers of New Jersey have compiled a guide featuring ten autism-friendly sports. These sports are not only enjoyable but also approach the specific needs of children with autism, providing distinct advantages.

At ABA Centers of New Jersey, we advocate for the inclusion of physical exercise in the routines of children and adolescents with autism. Engaging in autism-friendly sports can ease specific challenges associated with autism. Additionally, we offer play-based ABA therapy, which integrates learning opportunities through play, enjoyment, and physical activity, promoting the positive impact of sports on individuals with ASD.

The Advantages of Engaging in Autism-Friendly Sports

Autism-friendly sports offer an array of benefits that extend far beyond general health, providing specific advantages for individuals with autism. Here are some of the key benefits:

The Advantages of Engaging in Autism-Friendly Sports

Enhanced Self-Esteem: Participating in sports enables children with ASD to set and achieve goals, bolstering their self-confidence in the process.

Boosted Social Interaction: Sports offer an ideal environment for social engagement, allowing for the formation of new friendships and the development of crucial social abilities. Furthermore, many sports promote essential qualities like teamwork, communication, and cooperation.

Development of Key Life Skills: Engaging in sports can nurture vital life skills, including time management, persistence, decision-making, and accountability, while also reinforcing discipline.

Regulation of Sleep Patterns: Individuals with ASD sometimes experience sleep disturbances. Engaging in autism-friendly sports has been shown to alleviate anxiety levels that impair sleep quality. According to research by  Frontiers in Pharmacology, regular physical activity aids in regulating the circadian rhythm, enhancing relaxation, and adjusting hormone levels, all of which can lead to more restorative sleep.

Mitigation of Challenging Behaviors: Studies, such as those reported in the Saudi Journal of Sports Medicine, have demonstrated that physical activity interventions for individuals with autism can help diminish problematic behaviors, including self-stimulation, aggression, and inattention.

Enhanced Motor Skills: Autism-friendly sports focus on improving abilities like balance, coordination, and proprioception, which not only enhance athletic performance but also significantly improve overall daily living experiences.

Autism-friendly sports not only encourage healthier lifestyles but also offer specific advantages that can significantly enhance the lives of individuals with ASD. Before involving your child in any physical activity, it is essential to understand their particular obstacles. By assessing their needs and customizing sports practices to match their abilities and preferences, you can significantly improve their experience and the benefits they derive from participation.

Challenges Faced by Individuals with Autism in Sports

While the difficulties encountered by individuals with autism can vary widely, particular common challenges tend to arise in sports environments. It’s important to note that what may hinder one person’s performance may not affect another’s.

Sensory Overloads: Atypical responses to sensory input are prevalent among individuals on the autism spectrum. Research from the National Library of Medicine indicates that over 96% of children with ASD exhibit both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity in various domains. These sensory behavioral differences can range from mild to severe and often persist into adulthood. Sensory overloads caused by lights, noises, and temperature changes can trigger meltdowns and problematic behaviors.

Communication Challenges: Team sports may require continuous interaction between players and coaches. Children with autism might struggle with communication, participating in conversations, adapting to team dynamics, and understanding non-verbal cues from teammates and coaches.

Physical Structure: Specific physical characteristics are necessary for contact sports like football or rugby. Many individuals with autism often have low muscle tone, particularly during childhood and adolescence, which can impact their ability to participate effectively.

Motor Skills Difficulties: Individuals with autism may experience challenges with hand-eye coordination, a critical skill in many sports activities.

Stress and Anxiety: Situations such as tryouts, competitive environments, and travel for games or tournaments can be stressful for individuals with autism, potentially increasing anxiety levels and affecting their performance.

Considering these challenges is essential to providing appropriate support for individuals with autism in sports settings and ensuring they have a positive and enriching experience.

Top 10 Autism-Friendly Sports

After considering the potential challenges individuals with autism might face when participating in sports, we have compiled a list of the top ten autism-friendly sports that offer a more individualized and beneficial experience for children with autism:

  1. Track and Field

Track and field is a versatile sport in which children with autism can participate individually or as part of a team. It promotes endurance and physical activity while encouraging participants to improve their times, speeds, and distances continuously.

  1. Gymnastics

Gymnastics enhances balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility. It offers individual practice that contributes to team goals, provides opportunities to build friendships, and strengthens social skills. The structured environment of gymnastics also helps alleviate sensory issues.

Autism-friendly sports
  1. Bowling

Bowling provides a repetitive, autism-friendly structure. Children can enjoy it at special events, clubs, and leagues, fostering social skills in relaxed and entertaining settings.

  1. Swimming

Swimming is a low-impact sport that engages numerous muscle groups. The water often serves as a calming environment, aiding in sensory regulation, reducing anxiety, and improving strength, endurance, and coordination.

  1. Martial Arts

Disciplines such as taekwondo and karate enhance concentration, memory, coordination, and physical technique skills. These individual practices also contribute to team dynamics.

  1. Horseback Riding

Interaction with animals can significantly improve communication and expression skills. Riding offers controlled sensory stimulation exercises motor skills, and builds confidence and self-esteem. It is also a therapeutic experience for those with autism.

  1. Yoga

Yoga is a low-impact practice that promotes calmness, increases flexibility, strength, and body awareness, encourages mindfulness and concentration, and helps reduce challenging behaviors in children with autism.

  1. Cycling

Learning to ride a bike fosters confidence and independence. Cycling helps improve coordination, balance, and endurance.

  1. Golf

Golf is played in a calm, controlled environment, making it ideal for individuals with autism. It promotes concentration and focus, develops motor skills, and encourages self-control and emotional regulation.

  1. Tennis

Children and teenagers with autism can practice tennis individually or in pairs, depending on the player’s preference. It improves hand-eye coordination, balance, strength, and endurance in a controlled, autism-friendly environment.

Top 10 Autism-Friendly Sports

Autism-Friendly Sports Programs in New Jersey


Move United

Move United is a national organization dedicated to promoting access to sports for injured combatants and individuals with disabilities. It operates in 41 states, and its New Jersey chapters focus on providing adaptive sports and recreational opportunities for people with autism and other disabilities.

ACEing Autism

ACEing Autism offers adaptive tennis lessons specifically designed for children with autism ages 5-18. Their mission is to help children with autism grow, develop, and benefit from social connections and physical activity through affordable tennis programs.

Chariot Riders

Chariot Riders assists individuals with physical, cognitive, or emotional challenges in reaching their full potential through equine-assisted therapies and activities. This program provides a unique therapeutic experience that can significantly benefit children with autism.

Spectrum Sports

Spectrum Sports offers customized sports programs designed for children with autism, including yoga classes, sports and games, and fitness classes. These programs aim to improve participants’ physical and emotional health by providing a supportive and adaptive environment.

ABA Centers of New Jersey & Autism Therapy

At ABA Centers of New Jersey, we recognize the value of involving children and teenagers from the neurodiverse community in autism-friendly sports. These activities provide numerous developmental benefits and positively impact their future. Alongside sports and physical activities, individuals with autism can gain significantly from therapies specifically designed to address the needs of autism spectrum disorder.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a specialized methodology for individuals with ASD. It utilizes practices such as play, physical activity, positive reinforcement, and various teaching techniques; ABA therapy helps develop essential skills for independence across diverse settings.

To learn more about ABA therapy, call (855) 640-7888 or use our online form.

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