Every parent with a child with Autism wants their child to have opportunities to socialize and interact with others and join activities that encourage fun. Here are a few reasons why you should consider getting your child involved with recreational and group activities.
- It Encourages Social Interaction and Building Relationships
Even though social interactions involving parents and other family members are important, regular organized recreational and social groups with other people can increase a child’s ability to get used to being around other people and turn socializing into a more positive experience. It can also help children get used to interacting with their peers and encourage relationship building.
- They Teach How to Manage Behavior
Learning how to behave appropriately can be one of the more difficult aspects of growth for children with Autism. Getting involved in recreational or social groups from a young age onward can help them learn how to behave and respond in different situations. If a child is misbehaving, intervention using positive language can be greatly helpful in teaching them what is appropriate and what is not. For example, if a child is acting aggressively towards another child while playing, to say “play nicely,” rather than “stop being mean,” positively encourages the child to learn how to interact better when frustrated with others in different challenging situations.
- It Promotes Healthy Ways of Communicating Overall
Much like teaching how to manage their behavior, recreational and social groups teach children with Autism more positive communication skills and ways of expressing their feelings. The more involvement and social interaction a child can be involved with through playtime and other activities with children, the more it puts them in a variety of social situations which helps them grow and benefit them in their everyday lives.
- It Promotes Using Motor Skills
Increased physical activity, or any kind of other involvement with sports, physical exercise, or play for Autistic children promotes a healthy lifestyle. More importantly, it can be a large factor with overcoming any existing barriers involving limited motor functions, as it helps to increase crucial motor skills including strength, endurance, coordination.
- Other Benefits of Physical Activity for Autistic Children
In addition to an increase in fitness and motor function, physical activity is shown to improve self-esteem and general levels of happiness within your child. Physical engagement in all different forms of physical activity can also ease repetitive behaviors and increase their attention span. Activities like swimming or running, help a child promote healthy rhythmic movements in place of their typical repetitive behaviors and can increase their overall attention span. Physical activities and sports can also teach them sportsmanship and the importance of teamwork.
- Skills Lessons Learned Can Be Carried Over at School and at Home
If your child has access to an organized recreational program specifically for children with Autism, most of the strategies, behavior techniques, and skills that are used in the program should be implemented throughout the week in different ways on a regular basis. The more that the strategies are used at home, the more your child can benefit and gain more from the program.
- They Can Help Teach Organization
Programs that provide a semi-structured format allow the child to get used to what to expect during the program. Structured play time for children with Autism can benefit them with transition and easing into new activities better. Also incorporating smaller tasks picking up their toys after play time, or giving a small reward after completing homework teaches them responsibility and other skills while they think they’re just having fun.
- They Can Help Peak Interests and Discover Hobbies
When Autistic children are given the chance to participate in social groups and other recreational involvement, this makes it easier for your child to discover his or her hobbies and interests that they wish to continue in the future as they grow older. By discovering different interests, this allows children to eagerly look forward to weekly activities that he or she enjoys participating in.
- They Can Provide Some Support and Relief for Parents or Usual Caregivers
Recreational programs, social groups and activities that have one-on-one support for Autistic children can also benefit their parents or caregivers. They allow them to relax and talk to one another while watching their children participate. As a parent, being able to watch your child interact and participate in the programs, you can observe what strategies are working and what strategies do not for him or her. The most rewarding aspect is usually observing your child master a skill or with the look of joy or accomplishment on his or her face.
- They Can Increase Your Child’s Self – Esteem
One of the most important reasons for caregivers or parents of Autistic children to involve their child with recreational and social activities, is the child’s sense of accomplishment that usually comes after participating in several sessions. When a child finally masters a skill, this helps them experience a great sense of accomplishment which leads to confidence. Having more confidence in themselves carries with them everywhere they go throughout their lives. The best reward is to see your child’s self-esteem improve and for general levels of happiness within your child increase.
How to Find Programs in Your Area
Allowing your child to socialize with peers while participating in activities could promote some of the similar gains that children often benefit from an organized recreational program. Thanks to the internet, there are more services and groups to access than in the past. If you are concerned there are not as many opportunities for involvement due to your finances, geographic location, budget or other reasons, that does not mean that your child cannot gain the same skills. Consider talking to local therapists or searching locally on the internet or around the area. There are also many different fun activities you can implement within your family. Recreational programs are not meant to take the place of traditional therapy sessions or family activities.
The following programs are some that are offered in South Jersey