With the diagnosis of autism and related disorders on the rise throughout the United States, parents and teachers are looking for any way to treat and enrich the lives of children who are diagnosed with some spectrum of the disorder.
From highly structured therapeutic activities to address behavior and speech issues to other forms of treatment like animal or music therapy, there are multitudes of ways to engage and improve the lives of children with autism. One of these methods is using structured play. It’s important to note that play programs must be implemented properly in order to be effective, as participation in physical activity can be difficult for children with autism because of low motor functioning and social anxiety.
Read on to see how using structured play on playground equipment can benefit children with autism alongside a behavioral intervention.
1. Play promotes fitness and a healthy lifestyle
The prevalence of being overweight increases for children with autism, with 19% of children with autism being overweight and an additional 36% at risk. Being overweight can bring with it the usual associated health problems like diabetes, heart problems, and joint issues, but these conditions can become especially problematic in children with autism as they frequently already have health issues like gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, and depression. Promoting activity and healthy movement helps children stay healthy and fit to reduce the risk of weight gain.
2. Exercise and play improves motor function
If you think about the number of challenges your playset presents to your child, it’s no surprise that using a rope ladder, slide, or swing would increase motor skills. By engaging in structured play sessions using some aspects of a playground or play area, a child with autism can increase their balance, flexibility, and strength.
3. Structured play decreases negative behavior
Negative, self-stimulating behavior like body rocking, spinning, and head-nodding are frequent in children with autism. Exercise, however, can help curb these behaviors along with aggressive or self-injurious behavior. It’s possible that the routines of exercise are similar enough to distract from the negative behavior.
4. Physical activity improves social outcomes
The benefits of exercise and play for children and adults alike are well known—we all are usually in a good mood after we exercise, and playing on teams promotes cooperation and teamwork. For children with autism, these benefits can be even more important as these children are frequently anxious and depressed and have a hard time interacting with other people. Physical exercise and play can promote self-esteem, increase general happiness, and help develop social relationships.
Incorporating structured play and exercise into autism treatment can have a myriad of positive outcomes for children who have been diagnosed on the spectrum. Using playground equipment to help children with autism have a structured and safe environment is a great way to promote physical activity and all the benefits that go along with it for children with autism.Tweet