Children with special needs, like those on the Autism spectrum, are increasingly finding hope and help through physical activities like gymnastics. The sensory stimulation that different apparatus in a gym can offer a child is almost limitless. Fine and gross motor planning can be improved through gymnastic exercises and routines, and the opportunity to socialize in this kind of environment can make transitions in social settings easier and less stressful. No wonder children with special needs have found a home in the gym!
It can be difficult to find a gym or other facility which offers classes or activities for special needs kids, but the good news is that often the classes aren’t even necessary. Letting an autistic child have supervised, free-rein in a gymnastics studio can help the child learn control of his or her body, find an organizing activity that helps him or her center and calm, all the while providing the needed and desired sensory stimulation. An organized class may actually be counter-productive in terms of the limits and controls in place from the outset, but a “free-range” kind of approach may engage kids who otherwise would refuse to participate.
That said, a gymnastics program specially designed for kids with special needs may be the perfect fit for those who are ready for or have need of greater structure. If instructors are trained to work with special needs kids, it would be completely worth time and money spent to involve your child. Exploration of an environment is critical for these kids, and with a trained gymnastics instructor on hand, children can explore not only their environments, but how their bodies relate to these environments.
A gymnastics studio has unique qualities that make it perfect for special needs kids: wide open spaces, varying textures, crash mats for jumping, trampolines, ropes for swinging. It doesn’t get any more stimulating than a gym! And as the child is playing in this safe, supervised environment, she is also actually learning; learning about her own body, the limits of control, the meaning of objects and how they relate to her, and even how to communicate with those around her.
Gymnastics could be a critical component of the raising and education of a child with special needs. Check out the gyms and community centers in your area to see about participating in or perhaps providing the impetus for starting a gymnastics program for your own special kid.