This recent Washington Post story, "The Power of Play" shows the potential for team sports -- in this case, ice hockey -- to be a valuable and enjoyable way for kids on the autism spectrum to get physical exercise, learn something new and establish relationships with peers. Or, as 9-year-old Robby Callihan puts it, the chance to skate at the home arena of the Washington Capitals is nice, but the best part about participating on a youth hockey team "is playing with my friends."
The Post story explains that the NOVA Cool Cats, a youth hockey team based in the Washington, D.C., area, is one of 30 teams for people with developmental disabilities across the U.S. The Cool Cats has 30 members, and each has a parent or sibling or other person to help them on the ice.
The story doesn't delve into how much training these support people and parents get to help the kids play. But a branch of the national youth program USA Hockey has a division called the American Special Hockey Association that provides information about starting such programs and appears to offer some training assistance.
The Special Olympics provides more information about getting people with developmental disabilities involved in athletics. I am interested in learning about other team sport applications, too. Imagine creating a preferred activity for an autistic child that has social benefits and physical fitness attached to it. If you know of activities or programs for soccer, basketball or other sports, please let me know by posting a comment or e-mailing me. I will publish another post with more information when I get it.