As a working parent, it is sometimes not easy to meet your obligations at home, at work, and to have a social life. You may also feel guilty for not being able to engage in the activities that therapy demands.

What if I told you that there is another way of going about it! In conjunction with therapy, there are a number of unstructured play activities that children with autism can engage in. To most parents, these activities may not look like they are benefiting the child much but they are worth looking into. I will share a few of those below:


Strength and Balance

When children encounter obstacles in an obstacle course, they develop and enhance strength and balance. Outdoor obstacle courses like Challenge Course are a great way for kids to get a full-body workout. It makes them stronger and enhances their sense of balance at a young age. 

The strength and balance skills developed on an obstacle course transfer effectively to other sports like soccer or gymnastics.

Memory and Problem Solving

In life and school, kids need to be able to remember lots of information. They also need to learn how to solve problems based on sequencing information and actions. By running an outdoor obstacle course, children develop and enhance these skills. 

Outdoor obstacle courses help children solve problems as they learn how to maneuver up, over, or through obstacles. They also learn how to adjust to changing conditions and memorize the fastest way to progress through the course. These skills will help them throughout their life.

Sensory Processing

An obstacle course is also a great opportunity for children to develop sensory processing skills.

For example, kids experience deep pressure sensory input (also known as proprioception) as they pull themselves up a climbing wall. They also encounter linear (up and down), sagittal (side to side), and rotary (spinning) inputs as they run through the obstacle course. Learning these senses and how to adjust to them helps them develop motor skills, coordination, and adaptation.

Motor Skills

Fine and gross motor skill development is essential during childhood development. Fine motor skills help children learn how to hold a pencil or grip small objects. Gross motor skills help children walk, run, jump, and climb. Outdoor obstacle courses are the perfect environment for children to learn and enhance these vital motor skills that will benefit them for a lifetime. 


Sometimes called bilateral coordination, this is a skill children struggle with at an early age. Complex coordination involves moving separate body parts at the same time to complete a task. Think about the many muscle groups and body parts required to climb over a wall or weave through an agility obstacle. 

An outdoor obstacle course provides a lot of opportunities for children to develop complex bilateral coordination. Developing these coordination skills improves overall health and fitness and helps kids for years to come[1]


For many kids, using trampoline therapy for autism-friendly exercise may be the perfect solution for delivering the benefits of physical activity in a fun way that circumvents the pressures of group sports. The activity of trampolining can provide children with a great sense of fun and well-being. Being outside allows children to get fresh air and sunlight, both of which provide their own health benefits. And allowing siblings to join in with the trampoline fun can also help to provide huge social benefits to children with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome

 Enhances Motor Skills – Trampolining is one of the greatest ways of enhancing motor skills. This form of workout strengthens the bones, triggers early muscle growth and hence instigates fitness. This is greatly advantageous for autistic kids. He or she starts feeling the fitness benefits and this generates confidence in them. This way you also make sure that they understand the significance of physical fitness in their life. It has been revealed through research that those kids with autism have difficulties in having control on their actions. But trampolining actually assimilates their movement in one single action. This way they gradually learn how their mobility affects their body.

 Improves the Social Skills – Since the autistic kids are said to be trapped in their own world they find it to be a little bit problematic to make friends and interact with the peers. Taking your child to the trampoline park opens up doors for your kids to meet new people and also get the entertainment that they deserve. They can play a number of games on the trampoline.

 Boosts Up the Sensory Skills – The kids with autism are prone to getting overwhelmed very soon as they have augmented anxiety level. Trampolining helps to relieve the extra stress and release the excessive energy through a positive channel. So in no time, you will find that trampolining has become the safe haven for your child that they love to do all day[2].

Benefits of Swinging for Autism

Swinging and the Vestibular System:

When a child with autism engages in swinging, there’s more happening than just the joy of motion. The back-and-forth or side-to-side motion of the swing offers consistent stimulation to the vestibular system. 

This regular input helps enhance the system’s functioning, refining the brain’s interpretation of balance and spatial orientation.

Impact on Autism:

Children with autism sometimes face challenges with motor coordination and spatial awareness.

They may:

  • Be clumsy, bumping into things or tripping frequently
  • Struggle with new athletic activities and sports, like riding a bike, kicking and throwing, climbing, etc.
  • Need extra time to plan motor movements
  • Have poor performance in gym class
  • Need additional time learning even simple motor movements. For example, waving or pointing
  • Be late meeting developmental milestones related to movement, such as crawling, walking, standing, etc.

The improved regulation of the vestibular system through swinging can help in reducing these challenges. 

Over time, as the system is repeatedly and consistently stimulated, children can exhibit reduced clumsiness and improved motor coordination.

Calming and Soothing Effect

Repetitive and rhythmic motions like swinging have a deeply soothing effect on most individuals, not just those with autism. 

This is because the brain starts anticipating the motion, creating a predictable pattern that is calming for our nervous system.

Swinging’s Impact:

For children with autism, the world can sometimes seem overwhelming due to sensory sensitivities. The rhythmic motion of swinging acts as a predictable and controlled sensory input amidst the chaos. 

This consistency can significantly reduce episodes of anxiety, meltdowns, or other disruptive behaviours .

Improved Focus and Attention

When the brain receives organized and structured sensory input, like the motion from swinging, it can better process other stimuli in the environment. 

This structured input essentially helps “tune” the brain. And this improved focus doesn’t stop when they stop swinging; it can last for hours.

Post-Swinging Benefits:

After a swinging session, the organized state of the brain can persist for a while. 

Many caregivers, teachers, and therapists observe that children with autism can focus better, process information more efficiently, and engage in tasks for longer durations after swinging. 

Essentially, the act of swinging helps declutter the mind.

Muscle Development and Tone

Swinging is a gross motor activity, and while it might look effortless, swinging requires the engagement of multiple muscle groups. From gripping the chains or ropes to stabilizing the body during motion, various muscles are at work.

Swinging’s Role in Physical Development:

Regular swinging can enhance muscle tone and strength, especially in the core, legs, and arms. For children with autism, especially those with reduced muscle tone, this physical engagement can be invaluable.

Over time, consistent swinging can contribute to better posture, improved physical coordination, and overall physical development[3].

By Kananelo Makoetlane