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Exercise as a Treatment for Autism

written by: Jennifer G • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 10/27/2010

Exercise can be an effective treatment for autism. Find out how regular physical activity can help autistic children achieve greater successes in all areas of their lives.

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    Exercise can have a positive impact on the life of a child who has autism. It's not a miracle cure, but it can at least help an autistic child reach his or her full potential in the areas of social development, emotional maturity and motor skills. Autism spectrum disorder affects children in varying ways. Some children face severe challenges, while others have moderate, or mild cases. As a result, the benefits of regular exercise for autistic children can vary. Some children with autism may have limitations on the types of exercises they can do due to physical challenges, but most can participate in some form of physical activity.

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    Physical Benefits

    Some autistic children need extra practice developing their fine motor skills. Regular exercise can help them in this area. They can learn how to gain better control of their body movements through activities like jumping on a trampoline, jumping rope, or weight lifting. Other fun ways of exercising for children with autism can include activities such as playing on swings, doing cartwheels, and dancing to help help regulate their vestibular system. This is the part of the body located near the inner. It is responsible for balance and coordination. They can foster their hand and eye coordination by playing a game of catch or jacks. Activities such as bowling and basketball can also help an autistic child fine tune their motor skills.

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    Improves Social Skills

    Many children with autism spectrum disorder have difficulty interacting with their peers. For this reason, some autistic children might not be able to participate in team sports. However, some higher functioning children can learn appropriate social skills by being part of a team. This experience can teach the child about rules and taking turns, and how to work in a group effort. It can also be an opportunity for an autistic child to learn verbal communication skills, body language, and making eye contact when speaking to others. Autistic children sometimes lack friendships due to their difficulties with communication, so playing team sports gives them an opportunity to form new relationships.

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    Better Emotional Control

    In many cases, children with autism have a hard time controlling their emotions. As a result, they may have tantrums or meltdowns, when they are upset or over stimulated. Physical activity has a calming effect on everyone, and that includes people with autism. It's important to find an activity that the child really enjoys. This could be swimming, dancing, or martial arts. Physical activity causes the brain to produce serotonin, which is a chemical that causes a person to feel pleasure. This makes exercise a useful way to relieve stress. An autistic child can use it in a positive way to cope with their emotional challenges. For example, the child can learn to go for a bike ride, or jump on trampoline when they feel overwhelmed. Doing this may reduce the occurrence of meltdowns.

    http://www.autism-help.org/family-physical-exercise-autism.htm