Having fun with your child with autism is absolutely essential. It’s a key to your emotional health, and to the relationship you’re building both with your autistic child and with your typically developing children. Perhaps just as importantly, when you see your child with autism outside of the classroom or therapist’s office, you may just discover that (1) he or she has some talents you never noticed before and (2) your child with autism is actually a lot of fun to be with
Each Sunday in April we’ll featuring a guest post from Lisa Jo Rudy, the author of Get Out, Explore and Have Fun: How Families of Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome Can Get the Most out of Community Activities. She was the the About.com Guide to Autism for five years, and is now an inclusion consultant for community organizations and museums, a writer for autismafter16.com, and (of course) the mom of Tom Cook, age 15, diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Find her at www.authenticinclusion.org or at www.lisajorudy.com.
You may feel it’s tough to enjoy sports with your autistic family member, but perhaps you haven’t considered swimming. Kids with autism often enjoy water – and swimming may come very naturally. The great thing about swimming is that it’s very versatile. It’s easy to swim as a family – but it’s also possible to swim as part of a team, in a pool, lake or ocean, with other kids or on your own.
If you’re thinking about pool swimming, I can highly recommend the YMCA. Most Y’s have pools, and most Y pools are intended for recreational swimming (meaning they’re warm enough to be comfortable). Y’s offer daily passes, so you can give it a try without committing a fortune. Many Y’s also offer special times for family swim, and even for special needs swim. If your child turns out to be a natural swimmer, Y’s are always willing to include special needs kids in their lessons and teams. If you enjoy swimming as a family, Y’s also offer financial aid so that you can join and come whenever and for as long as you like.
Start off shallow and easy: in the kiddie pool or in a pool where she can easily stand. Make as few demands as possible; just enjoy floating around and having fun together. If your child shows an interest, you can consider lessons or provide lessons yourself. Of course it’s very important that your child build enough water skills to stay afloat – but excellent stroke skills and the ability to dive aren’t critically important. If your child is really interested in going further with swimming, individual or group lessons may be in order. And if your child turns out to be a great swimmer, swim teams are a terrific option.