Autism and participating in sports activities

Stephen McHugh
This post was last updated on
August 20, 2022
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I must admit, I wasn’t, and never have exactly been the most gifted from a sporting perspective. Generally, I’d find many activities during Physical Education difficult. However, I didn’t let this prevent me from participating in any such events for fun whenever opportunities presented themselves.

For me, participating in sporting activities during PE lessons at school gave me a good insight into how to develop good ball sense, team working and social skills over time. For the most part, I’d enjoy mainly smaller sided, more simple and less strenuous activities, whether indoors and outdoors, since it was easier for me to get more out of them. 

Two sports which are of most interest to me are swimming and golf.

Autism and learning how to swim

During our last two years in primary school, we had half hour weekly swimming sessions at our local leisure centre. When we first got started I couldn’t swim very far at the time, and consequently ended up in the group of lesser ability.  At this time I couldn’t swim very far. A pool’s width would be seen as some achievement by me, let alone one length. 

As we became more competent swimmers we were introduced to swimming in deeper water, which gave me a fear of drowning. One thing that helped me with this over time, was going swimming with my family either side of swimming lessons. This helped me to gradually overcome the fear of the deeper water. 

In addition, the fact that I wouldn’t be under the watchful eyes of swimming teachers and classmates lessened the pressures on me somewhat, helping me to realise my truer potentials under more in terms of encouragement and praise.

Once fears and uncertainty in me lessened, I decided to set myself realistic swimming distance targets. I even wrote the targeted distances down. This approach helped me in the sense that it gave me targets to focus on and work towards.

Learning how to play golf

I’ve found myself interested in this sport. One thing I enjoy about it is that you often find yourself playing in quiet settings, only surrounded by the sounds and sights of nature.

Another thing I like about it is using my improved understanding to work out what makes a sound golf swing. I used to do this as a summer thing at my local driving range. However, my ball striking was rather inconsistent, as I didn’t really have a good understanding of how the golf swing worked.

One important aspect of golf is that you have to use your lower body to power your golf swing instead of using your hands and arms.  At the top of your backswing you have to train yourself to let gravity take over when at the top of the backswing, and not rush it.

A good technique I found easy to use to develop a good putting stroke involved placing my head against a wall and doing a rocking motion with my shoulders. This helped me to  take 2 putts more often on my last round of playing golf.

Read a report about an autistic golfer here. For me it makes for an interesting read.

Benefits of sporting activities for autistic people


Opportunities to get outside in the fresh air.

They allow us to experience and appreciate the sights and sounds of nature, particularly in more tranquil settings, giving some relief from the stresses of everyday life. And being exposed to nature can help with learning and education.

Sporting activities are chances for us to do exercise. This, for me, is important for maintaining sound health.

Develop good concentration and social skills, and even friendships.

Improve language skills and general understanding.

And finally

People on the autism spectrum can learn to participate competently in sports and other related events.

Are you on the spectrum and found that you haven’t been good at any sporting activities initially but got better at them over time?  

Or perhaps you might have found that some sports events are more suitable for you than others. I’d be interested to read any responses to these questions, and any benefits from your part.

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