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Asperger’s Syndrome and Sports
People with Asperger’s are often drawn to certain sports above others. Problems with motor skills and coordination are common and this may result in clumsiness on the sports field. This is particularly noticeable in boys and men who generally engage in more physical sports than women. Sports can be helpful to a person with Asperger’s but need to be chosen carefully. Bad choices can work against the individual whereas a wise choice can enhance their fitness levels and general enjoyment of life.
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Sports Suitable for People with Asperger’s Syndrome
Though people with Asperger's like to have friends they have much less of a need for social contact than neurotypical people. Because of this, they normally do better at solitary sports rather than team sports. The ability to practice alone is normally a bonus for an aspie and they may develop a passion for their chosen sport. Possible choices and their benefits include the following:
- Running - this develops endurance
- Snooker - can help with eye-hand coordination
- Rock climbing - uses every part of the body
- Golf - this takes perseverance to complete the course
- Swimming - can be an individual or a team sport, uses all muscle groups
- Trampoline sports - gives a good workout
- Cycling - many people with Asperger's do well at cycling and it broadens their horizons as they improve their general fitness
Doing well at a sport can be good for an aspie’s self-esteem and can also open up doors for friendship. While the sport may be an individual pursuit, there will be clubs and contests where they can meet people with similar interests. Sport also provides a good topic of conversation when getting to know somebody. People with Asperger’s like routine and familiarity and practising at set times on set days normally works well for them. Sport is also an ideal way to keep fit as it encourages healthy eating and lifestyle habits.
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Sports that Asperger’s People may Struggle With
Motor skills are often immature in Asperger’s children and even Aspie adults may appear clumsy and slightly uncoordinated. This works against ball skills and the person finds it difficult to throw, catch or kick a ball. This rules out a number of team sports such as football, soccer, cricket, basketball and baseball. Sports that are noisy are also not recommended for people with Asperger’s as they frequently struggle with crowds and excessive noise. The sound of tennis balls bouncing back and forth or shouts echoing from walls are not helpful to them.
In a school setting, teachers may find it better to allow an Asperger’s child to help with scoring rather than suffer the humiliation of being picked last for a team. If individual sports are available, the teacher should steer the child in the right direction and suggest they try several options to see what they enjoy most.
Asperger’s syndrome and sports can be a good combination if the person chooses a sport that suits them and their personal needs and abilities. It is a way of keeping fit and also provides valuable opportunities for an Aspie to make like-minded friends.
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Asperger's Syndrome and Sports: References
The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007