Many are the sleepless nights that will be earned when thinking of the right physical activity for your child who struggles with autism. Most sports have a limitation built in that makes them not quite right for those on the autistic spectrum. Virtually all team sports fall into this category. However, many people are catching on to the fact that some individual sports are quite capable of giving their child all the mental, physical, and social development that they need. One of these sports is Tennis. Tennis can help your autistic child in a number of ways:
An Individual Sport
There are many advantages that come with playing an individual sports. Not least among them is the feeling of accomplishment that comes with winning or mastering the sport. There is no team for your child to rely on, all their success depends entirely on them. The feeling of elation that comes with accomplishment, especially when they are solely responsible for reaching the milestone, can be a great confidence and self-esteem boost.
There is another upside to individual sports and that is the fact that the absence of having to learn how to deal with each and every member of his squad every squad every single day means that kids on the autistic spectrum can hit the ground running, focusing everything into learning the new sport.
It Helps Mental Development
Tennis is like a game of chess. 90% of it is mental. There is no team to lean on and therefore all decisions come from the player in the court. They have to build basic strategic thinking skills if they are to win. This is the reason why children who play tennis experience rapid or accelerated growth in the frontal lobe of their brains-the section of the brain associated with reasoning, problem solving, and planning. These benefits to the brain translate to out of court activities as well. Think of the benefits on the development of a child struggling with autism or on the autism spectrum, a condition that inhibits neuro-development.
One of the most glaring benefits of tennis is physical development. And this goes beyond physical shape and physique. Tennis is one of the few sports that requires the movement of many body parts. The necessity of physical activity of this sort allows the child to fine tune basic motor skills.
One basic motor skill that regular people take for granted, but which people with autism can’t, is hand-eye coordination which is the manner in which eyes process information in order to direct the hands. Hand-eye coordination starts developing when a child is still an infant, and is necessary for basic tasks like dressing, writing, and tying shoes.
The fact that tennis players have to keep their eyes on the moving ball at all times in order to quickly react is something that an autistic child could benefit from. The intense focus needed can needed can aid in the development and hand-eye coordination, and this could lead to better quality of life out of the court.
One-on-One Learning is Possible
The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. Autism is not a condition set in stone; it is a spectrum, with each individual affected in a unique way. Therefore the last thing that is needed is a blanket therapy method where one size is assumed to fit all. In tennis, instruction can be done in a manner that makes it easier for things to be tailored to people of different needs and preferences.
Kids with a very high degree of autism, or those who are not ready to jump on the court just yet can have private or semi-private instruction that will still carry all the benefits of playing tennis.
At What Age Should Your Kid Start Playing Tennis?
There is no clear cut answer. Just as with most things that deal with autism therapy, the answer changes from person to person. However, if parent’s insist on a rule of thumb, children are usually not ready to take on tennis before the age of 4, and only a precious few are ready by the age of 4.
Before they get to four, they can take part in coordination games, or maybe get acquainted with the building blocks of the sport.
What Should the Goal of Tennis Be for Autistic Children?
The main goal should be having fun. Some of those who take up tennis may end up playing for life, enjoying the benefits along the way. Some may make it to the high school team or to a tournament one day. The important thing is that they are fully informed of the benefits of the sports to them, and then they can be left to take it in whatever direction they intend to.
What to Look for in a Tennis Program?
When trying to decide on a tennis program, the first thing you want to do have a talk with the director. A simple talk can tell you a lot about what is going on. Try to get some insight about who is on the staff. You want experienced professionals in charge of your autistic child. A great tennis program should also be divided into progressive tiers or levels, from beginner onwards.
There are some programs that give children a strong chance to determine which level they get to be on. They first hit a few balls so that their skill level is determined. Then they are grouped into different courts according to different skill levels. If a child wants to get into another court, then they have to work hard at improving.
How to Get Started?
You can get started right away. Enroll your child for tennis classes as quickly as possible. The earlier your child starts enjoying the benefits of playing tennis, the better. Services such as PlayYourCourt.com connect you with vetted instructors all over the country.
There are also organisations like ACEing Autism that offer group clinics for children struggling with autism.