Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tackle Football and Autism

Lucky # 50

So we did it- the hubby and I have Noah signed up for football.  The  mister has been looking forward to this day since it was made painfully clear that the oldest  boy was most emphatically NOT a sports oriented kid.  Having watched my girl in cheer and coaching cheer myself- I have got to see a lot of the little league games and I have been getting pretty excited to see my boy out on the field.

Of course I am cautiously excited- practices are brutal and Noah isn't known for his patience.There is A LOT of running, and sometimes they get yelled at. It's par for the course. We are doing our best to prepare him for this- and will be on hand at practices to help with any issues that might come up.

This will be our second attempt at a team sport- the first was soccer 3 years ago and that was a disaster. He didn't understand why he couldn't have the ball all of the time, complained that his feet were too hot and had at least  1 meltdown where I  had to carry him off the field.  That was not fun.

So we decided that he was too young  for an organized sport at the time. We then signed him up for Tae Kwon Do- a physical activity that also provided opportunity for developing social skills, plus it teaches discipline and patience. He was very successful, but his coordination was still not the best and as it got harder he got more frustrated. Cub Scouts began and that interfered with Tae Kwon Do so we took a break. He had earned his Blue stripe and we planned on returning. That is until it came time for football sign ups.

When the idea of football comes to mind, many parents cringe at the idea of their kids being out on the field playing what’s viewed as such a dangerous sport. Possible injuries to  already sensitive kids are scary challenges parents of autistic kids are faced with. Organized sports, especially contact sports are something most parents of autistic kids would rather just not do. But, just as any sport is beneficial to those without neurological disabilities, they can be just as beneficial as those living with them. The trick is finding the right "fit" I believe. Noah will be starting on a team with boys that are all first year freshmen players, with a great coach. Everybody  knows him, and knows about his autism and there is a level of excitement that makes me feel a little less worried.

As with any sports activity, football is very physical, and while there is a possibility for injury the kids are padded up, put through intense conditioning and have experienced coaches to help them to avoid injuries. That's not to say the first time my kid is in the middle of a pile of other kids I won't be freaking out.

Football has also been proven to be a healthy way of improving motor functioning, behavior skills, and social skills in kids with autism. Some aspects of football may pose a challenge for many such as coordination, socialization, or lack of motivation. But with good coaching and clinics that are offered, most kids should be able to participate and experience success.

So wish my boy luck. Conditioning begins in a few weeks- and in the mean time I am sure dad will be playing with him in the yard.