Check out these recommendations for sports for kids who have sensory needs from our team of pediatric therapists!
For some kids, sports are the center of their universe! For others, sports are a necessary component of their lives to provide confidence and calm. Children with SPD often need more proprioceptive input, more vestibular input, and increased opportunities for feeling confidence acceptance that being involved in a sport can offer.
Sports provide exercise opportunities that boost serotonin and endorphin levels and make kids feel GOOD!
The Best Sports for Kids With Sensory Needs
Here are our favorite recommendations for sports for kids with sensory processing needs:
1 || Swimming
The aquatic environment is our number 1 recommendation for kids with sensory processing difficulties. Swimming can be equally as competitive as it is non-competitive. It can be done for leisure or for athletic accomplishment. It is a sport that offers strengthening and cardiovascular endurance and it is a sport that is, without a doubt, FUN!
In the water, kids have reduced sensory input. Their visual system and auditory systems are calmed. Have you ever experienced the quiet that being underwater provides? It’s incredibly relaxing! In addition, the water provides proprioceptive input through compression which is extremely organizing for the sensory overloaded child.
2 || Football
I know, this one isn’t for everyone. However, the intense proprioceptive input a child receives from those hard hits is just what some kids need! Does your child shy away from football or hockey? Learn more about why your child avoids contact sports.
3 || Martial Arts
Self-regulation is the benefit of this amazing sport. Kids must learn how to calm their emotional responses to “fight”, especially in the discipline of karate. Martial arts also require balanced postures that are held for extended time, requiring mindfulness and self-control. Be sure to visit different classes to determine which discipline and teacher is the right fit for your child.
4 || Gymnastics
Flip, spin, balance, and fly! Gymnastics requires an incredible amount of strength and body control and also offers huge doses of proprioceptive and vestibular input. It’s fun for kids to explore which apparatus provides the right input for their body!
5 || Dance
Again, the benefit of balance and self-control is evident through ballet. But how about tap? Tap dancing provides proprioceptive and auditory input and the rhythmic sound can be very calming.
Other Tips for Sensory Needs and Sports
For the child with a heightened tendency to escape or meltdown during overwhelming situations, have him visualize his practice or performance. Have him voice what could possibly go wrong and what he can do about it to keep the situation under control.
For kids who tend to become overstimulated by movement experiences, try social stories and visual reminders prior to practices and games to review rules and appropriate behavior. Have a plan in place for what to do if the child needs to take a break.
Does your child have difficulty coping during outings? Does waiting for swimming lessons to begin feel like torture? Try these calming games and activities for outings.
Regardless of the sport your child chooses, keep the fun factor high! Let your child lead the decision for non-competitive vs. competitive sports and make sure that he really WANTS to participate. For young kids, sports should be FUN not work!