Autism and us: How to handle Sports day

Dear friend,

Sports Day, a day that strikes terror in the hearts of many a child (and adult) alike. I used to love sports day until I smashed my knee then I hated it. I could't join in and watched with jealous anger from the sidelines. I had friends who hated it and always pulled a sicky and others who were annoyingly brilliant. But it was always one of the highlights of our school year and overall I have good memories...

Big lad has always struggled with gym at school. It gave us the biggest headache when he was in group 3.  In lower school they had lessons with their teacher in a small hall in school and he had no problems other than the coordination ones we knew about. But in group 3 he had to start having lessons in a big gym with a specialist gym teacher.

Gym became a nightmare. He didn't like the space, the noise, he couldn't handle losing... we had one angry, anxious, unhappy boy. Then entered our saviour and his amazing assistant started to support him in gym lessons. The situation improved. We got specialist help from physio therapists too and it helped him improve. But then came the question...How to handle sports day?

Autism and us: Sports day

Sports day is different from any other day. There is no set routine, you have to wear different clothes, it can be held in a new place, you may be put in a team with people that you don't know, the rules aren't clear, it's chaotic, you don't know where to go next... Add to that the fact that you have motor skills problems and find losing a massive challenge then what do you do???

It is no wonder that a lot of autistic children can find Sports day one of the most stressful days of the year.

We had a meeting at school and put our heads together to see what we could do to make Sports Days less stressful for the Big Lad...

Taking the stress out of Sports day

  • Let him go for just the first part of the day and see how it goes - mum on standby to collect him if needed
  • Make sure he has 1:1 assistance for the whole day
  • Make sure he has a quiet spot to escape to if he needs it.
  • Put him in the same team as a friend or classmate he knows well
  • Practise activities before the big day
  • Make a visual schedule or a social story to explain the day's events 
  • Decide which events he will or won't participate in
  • Give him a job to do - scoring, handing out ribbons, tooting the whistle to change games, taking photographs, for when he is not participating
  • And if all else fails... Let him stay at home

Autism and us: Sports day

Last year sports day went really well. I was on stand by just in case but wasn't needed and the big lad was happy and said he had a great time. Which he obviously did because this morning he announced that he could't wait for Sports day and that it was one of his favourite days of the year. Fingers crossed it all goes well...

We hope you enjoy your sports days too!

For more in my Autism and Us series see here.

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