Recently I gave a presentation at a conference regarding Autistic adults and what social opportunities are out there for them in the community.  One aspect of the social life that I discussed was exercise and sports.  The majority of adults on the Autism Spectrum don’t get any exercise.  If you combine their challenges with the fact that they don’t exercise that makes the figurative mountain that they have to climb in their lives that much greater.

Exercise has been a major part of my life.  I have played sports since I was a child and in my adult years have run eight marathons. Next to helping adults effected by Autism, that is my greatest passion.  Therefore, it is very frustrating to me to see Autistic adults not involved in exercise/sports.

Its not just the obvious health benefits that are missed when an adult is not involved in sports, but its the sensory impact as well.  The majority of Autistic adults have some form of sensory processing disorder. Those that don’t know what sensory processing is, it’s the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.  Say for example you are riding a bike the successful completion of that activity requires processing sensation or sensory integration. The importance of meeting each individuals sensory needs is that gives each person better focus and puts them in the best place for learning.

There is a sport out there for each of us, we just have to find the right one based on our personality and sensory needs. Below you will find a list of sports and which individual may be best suited for them.


Cheerleading.  This would be a good choice for those that are “jumpers”.  If the individual enjoyed jumping on trampolines, off furniture or other structures in the past this could be a great substitute for as he/she gets older.

Cycling. There are many individuals diagnosed with Autism who are toe walkers. Therefore, any sport that involves running would be more challenging.  This sport has no running and is a great form of exercise.

Golf. Another good sport for toe walkers. There is some walking involved that may be an issue.  If it is then you can always take a cart on the golf course.

Gymnastics.  Similiar to my thoughts about cheerleading. I think this could also be beneficial for those  who crave movement because there can be a lot of movement involved in this sport.

Hurdling.  A good sport for those who crave movement or  who like to jump.

Running.  A perfect sport for those that crave movement.

Swimming. This is a great sport for toe walkers as well.

Taekwondo. This is a very good sport to help those who have challenging with controlling their body. I have heard many individuals involved in this sport that made great gains in this area.

Tennis. Definitely a good sport for those that like movement.

Volleyball. Great for those that crave movement and who like to jump.

Walking. Great for those that need lots of movement, but think running is too challenging.

Wrestling. I think this is a sport that isn’t thought about very often for Autistic people, but it should if supervised in the correct way.  There are many individuals who crave deep pressure as a primary sensory need.  I think wrestling is the best sport for those that crave this type of pressure. Temple Grandin talks about using a squeeze machine to help with her need of deep pressure. Wrestling is another alternative to that fill that need. I’d love to sit down sometime and talk with Temple about his topic. Therefore, if anyone knows Temple give her my number!!

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4 thoughts on “Sports

  1. Why no roller skating? It doesn’t require any more motor skill than walking and can provide a great sense of accomplishment by providing an area where you can learn new “tricks”. Fast or adult only skates (once one has worked up to it) make for a good cardio workout.

  2. Many people on the spectrum have difficulty with coordination and are discouraged when trying sports. My 21 yr old daughter just recently learned to ride a bike through the I Can Bike program at icanshine,org. I highly recommend their program.

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