Basketball can be a teaching tool for children with autism

Some people say it’s an epidemic. There is still no known cause for why it strikes one child but not another, and there is no cure. To make things even more frightening, current statistics show that 2 to 6 children of every 1,000 will be diagnosed with it. And males are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with it than females.

We’re talking about autism.

Children born with this serious, life-altering neurological disorder will often exhibit symptoms of autism by age 3. Often they do not respond normally to verbal cues, they avoid eye contact, their verbal skills may be delayed or even non-existent and they may get fussy when they are cuddled.

Not only is the diagnosis far too frequent but also, as a neurological condition, it never affects children in the same way or to the same degree. In the medical world, the term “Autism spectrum” is applied to explain that the degree of autism may be very slight or very severe, with lots of inconsistencies in between.

One form of autism, which applies to higher functioning children, is known as Asbergers Syndrome. Children with this form of autism are often more verbal and more willing to communicate and interact with the world around them. They often have a very high level of intelligence and very specific gifts and talents.

However, like children who fall into other areas of the autism spectrum, kids who have been diagnosed with Asbergers Syndrome are usually developmentally delayed. Their gross motor skill development is delayed- meaning the use of large muscles is awkward.

Delays in social skills is another way that kids with Asbergers Syndrome struggle. They may be very uncomfortable with peer interaction. They may have trouble reading social cues and be confused when their peers react in certain ways. They may struggle to play appropriately with other kids.

And so if you are the parent of a child with autism, some time with a basketball and an adjustable you-sized hoop like a Goalrilla Basketball Goal may hold a lot more opportunities than you ever dreamed possible.

Obviously, you know your child best. Introduce him to the basketball, encourage him to throw it, kick it, bounce it. Encourage him to aim for the basketball hoop and when he gets a basket, sound like you’re throwing a party for his accomplishment.

Teach your child that age-old game of Horse, where you move around the goal, taking turns to make shots at the hoop. You are teaching him the skills of waiting for his turn, listening and following directions. Each time he handles the basketball, even if he is chasing after it, his muscles are developing and strengthening. He is gaining the ability to better work with his own body and become more coordinated. You are also helping your child to develop confidence. He is learning about a game, and you are bragging on him every single time he takes a try- whether he makes a basket or not.

When your child’s anxiety level about learning to play basketball begins to decrease, consider inviting one or two kids his age to join you under the basketball goal. During this time, you can observe your child’s social needs and guide him toward a better understanding of how to successfully play a game with other children.

Here at the Basketball Goal Store, we know basketball courts used by families are more than just another game – they are for creating memories, helping your children grow and develop and making parenting fun!

-Pat of the Basketball Goal Store Blog Team

4 comments on “Basketball can be a teaching tool for children with autism

  1. Regina Felder on

    My 10 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with ASD. She had previously been diagnosed as having ADHD and was thought to be shy. She is an extremely talented basketball player. She is currently playing in a highly competitive league and sometimes gets over stimulated and sometimes has major meltdowns during games. I need ideas of ways to keep her calm during games. Thanks!!!

    • Lance Padgett on

      Hello Regina,

      We’re glad to hear your daughter is doing well in her basketball league. Sports can be emotional as it is. Layer ASD on top of that, and it’s easy to see why she gets overstimulated at times. It’s also a challenge for you as the parent because you’d like to help her, but she’s on the court with her team. Here are a few suggestions we have which can perhaps help her on the court.
      1. It often helps individuals with anxiety to have an object to focus on when feeling anxious. This is a trained behavior to grab that object when feeling overstimulated, rub the object, and refocus the mind. Perhaps your daughter could have a special sports bracelet, just to wear during games, that could help her refocus when she’s feeling overwhelmed.
      2. A special routine could perhaps accomplish the same result. Baseball players are known for having little routines to calm the nerves. Growing up playing competitive baseball, I know I had many. Your daughter could develop a quick handshake (or other routine) with a good friend on the team and do the handshake during timeouts, breaks, or when feeling overwhelmed.

      Hopefully one of these help your daughter refocus her mind and keep her calm!

  2. Darrick Rudolph on

    I’m a commissioner of a optimist and would like to create a basketball league for kids with autism or disabilities. Can you advised me on how to make it happen..

    • Lance Padgett on

      Hello Darrick, thanks for your comment. This is a great idea you’re taking on. A good starting point might be contacting any of your local associations or societies for Autism and child disabilities. They should be able to advise you on how many children in your area would be able to potentially participate. This can help you determine if you would have enough children to form a league. With their help, you’ll be able to put the word out and gauge the interest level from children and parents. After that you can get in touch with your local YMCA or youth recreational center that might be able to host the games. Try and reach out to as many of the local community groups that you can to find a few sponsors, volunteer referees, t-shirt suppliers, etc. We’re wishing you much success with this league. We’d love to hear how it’s going and about any progress you’re making!

      Stay in touch, BasketballGoalStore

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