For individuals with autism, a hobby can give them a safe place to unwind from the day, collect their feelings and thoughts, or just give them a familiar and enjoyable activity that helps them socialize, express themselves, or even just process the world around them.
If you are looking for safe hobbies to implement for yourself or a loved one on the spectrum, this list can help.
1. Video Gaming
Video games come in a variety of genres, complexities, and difficulty levels. This makes them great for people of all ages. Many with autism love connecting with technology because there is predictability which makes it feel safe and comfortable.
It can also be a great way to help them socialize by using multiplayer options. You can set parental controls to keep it in check and invite their friends, on or off the spectrum, to join a game using a headset with a microphone so they can work together and engage in conversations.
A popular interest amongst people on the spectrum, especially younger ones, are trains. They are supposed to be lined up and because of that, many find comfort in that autism trains visual order. It can actually be soothing emotionally and intellectually because the act of creating that line has a purpose when used with trains.
Take this interest and expand it. Collect train schedules from around the world. Learn their history through research or visiting museums and stations. Stop at a hobby store or order online to make any kind of arrangement. There are movies, books, places to visit, and many other aspects to incorporate which also makes for a great way to bond with someone on the spectrum.
Legos are another great interest you can expand into a hobby. Children are able to grasp the precise building instructions and are proud when a build comes to completion. There are Lego movies, shows, and conventions, and even Lego Land for a special trip. Encourage socializing through Lego clubs, Mindstorms, and competitions.
Sports can be challenging if your child is on the spectrum but it does not mean they should not consider physical activity as a hobby. It is important to choose something that your child will enjoy and excel at. That means taking into consideration their skill levels and motor skill limitations. When you do choose the right one, it will open a world of excitement and friendships.
Certain team sports like soccer or basketball are exceptionally difficult for children with autism because of the required level of social communication, coordination, stamina, and strength.
Noises and outdoor weather can also prove challenging for some with sensory issues.
If your child is interested in a team sport, look into organizations that offer teams specifically designed for kids with disabilities or autism. Kids can also participate in aspects of the sport like shooting hoops, playing catch, or learning to skate. This may lead to an interest in the sport itself and build the confidence to play it. If not, they still get a fun skill and some physical activity out of it.
5. Team Sports
Not every sport needs high communication and coordination levels.
Swimming eliminates the need to handle a ball. It is an efficient physical activity that is easy on joints and muscles. Basic strokes are easy to learn and there are no complicated rules. Even on a team, a child can individually compete.
Running is a great way to expend energy, it requires very little communication, is simply structured, and gives autistic kids a way to be a valued team member.
Bowling leagues are welcoming and the game is easy to learn. It has familiar repetition and there is a sort of satisfaction in seeing the pins fall.
While some children with autism have sensory issues involving sound, others are drawn to it. Music is full of beats and rhythms that can resonate with many. Creating hooks and writing songs can be extremely fulfilling. Learning to play their favorite tunes on an instrument is exciting and most instruments are great for strengthening motor skills.
7. Art and Poetry
Arts involving poetry, drawing, and painting can be incredible hobbies for people with autism. It provides a creative outlet to express thoughts and emotions they often struggle to get out.
Poetry doesn’t have to be structured. It need not rhyme or even make complete sense to every reader. It gives children a way to make sense of things and express it in their own way.
Art can be just as therapeutic and can be used even with non-verbal individuals. It can even lead to a career for some on the spectrum, as in the case of forerunners Stephen Wiltshire and Jessica Park.
8. Non-team Sports
Non-team sports are great hobbies that are enjoyable and promote physical activity without the team environment that is uncomfortable for some.
Horses are often used in therapy with autistic children because they are able to easily bond with the animals which have a way of calming. Children also gain communication skills, learn responsibility, can compete, and of course, have fun.
Martial art provides structure, strengthens balance, flexibility, and strength, builds self-esteem, and discipline. Children have fun and feel accomplished as they improve. They can even participate in competitions and demonstrations.
The outdoors can be a great way to find peace and stress-release. This can be done in a group or individually. Your child will reap the benefit of light socialization, physical exercise, and getting to enjoy seeing nature. Add a camera to heighten the experience and hobby.
9. Collector Card Games
Pokemon seems to be especially popular with people on the spectrum. In fact, Satoshi Tajir, the creator of Pokemon is a high-functioning autistic. There is an enjoyable collecting aspect even if actual gameplay is not something your child is interested in. There are shows, movies, conventions, games, competitions, and many other theme-related activities to enjoy together. Trading with friends, clubs, and gameplay also offers socialization.
Cooking is a rewarding hobby for people on or off the spectrum; mostly because of the yummy reward in the end. For autistic children, the structured and detailed instructions of a recipe provide little room for uncertainty. Networks and television shows can further your child’s interest. Try recipes from other countries and cultures or try cooking with a new or unfamiliar ingredient. The possibilities are endless.
Children on the spectrum can benefit in many ways from engaging in a hobby they enjoy. Assess the specific needs and interests of your child to help you make a decision as to which one would best fit them and you may find a whole new world for them to embrace.