A few years ago, I was like many other teens with Asperger Syndrome. I didn’t have many friends and struggled to fit in at school. As a result, I kept mostly to myself.
For fun, I’d have my mom take me to the library so that I could read and learn more about topics that interested me. I was often lonely, and desperately wanted to make a good friend, but either I struggled to connect with the kids in my class or they weren’t interested in connecting with me.
Help for Teens with Asperger Syndrome
But all of that changed when my parents put me in swim lessons. At first I was hesitant, I liked the water, but I wasn’t sure if swimming was something I’d be able to do well. My coach was very helpful and eventually my skills began to improve. When I started high school, he encouraged me to try out for the swim team. I was reluctant to do so, but I went for it, anyway. I made the team, and being on it has made high school a lot more enjoyable than I ever thought it would be.
Here are a few ways swimming has helped me:
It helped me build self-confidence. Before swimming, my parents tried to get me involved in many other sports and activities. Usually, they just added to my anxiety. As this article about another swimmer with autism notes, often sports and social situations can be overwhelming. But when I’m swimming, it’s just me and the water. Finding a physical activity I’m good at has been wonderful for my self-confidence and it has provided me with a way to form friendships on my team.
It made me stronger. Another reason I struggled with other sports is that my reflexes just didn’t seem to be as good as some of the other kids my age. I wasn’t as fast as them or as strong. But as this guide on the benefits of aquatic therapy for children with autism supports, swimming can help improve motor skills and build strength.
It helped me feel accepted. Before swimming, I never felt like I was a part of anything. School social activities usually ended up being a disaster. Instead of making friends, I’d spend the time off to the side by myself. This article from AutismSpeaks.org points out how sports offer a great socialization outlet for kids with autism. And I agree, it also helps teens with Asperger Syndrome.
Being on the swim team has helped me tremendously. My teammates always cheer me on and help me out. When I’m not sure what to talk about with them, we can always talk about swimming.
It made me less anxious. This article from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that exercise has proven to be an efficient and effective way for people to ease their anxiety. Swimming has certainly helped me. Just being in the water is very relaxing for me, even when I’m in a race. And when I’m having a bad day, it helps me work out my frustrations. In fact, sometimes just knowing that I’ll be able to get in the pool later in the day can help calm me down when my anxiety or frustrations threaten to take over.
I’m so thankful that my parents decided to put me in swimming. It has changed my life in many positive ways. I highly recommend that other kids with Asperger Syndrome give it a try.
If you’re a teen with Asperger’s, what activities have benefited you? Let me know in the comments below!