ORLANDO, F.L. (Ivanhoe Newswire)– One in three children with autism spectrum disorder or ASD will not play any sports outside of school gym classes.
Due to social, verbal, and relationship issues that come with playing sports, children on the spectrum are often isolated, and play video games twice as long than the average child.
Grace Bowman played division one soccer and is turning it into life lessons for autistic boys and girls.
“(It helps to) approach obstacles and get through them as a team,” Grace Bowman said.
Bowman’s mission, getting kids off the sideline and into the game.
“I asked her why doesn’t he play and she mentioned he was on the autistic spectrum and that there wasn’t a program for him,” Bowman said, describing one child.
She started a first of its kind, spectrum-only soccer league, XL.ENT.
“If there wasn’t an XL.ENT team he maybe wouldn’t get that opportunity,” Paul Scully said.
Kids with ASD like Paddy Scully have a hard time playing on sports teams. Outdoor factors make it difficult for those on the spectrum to focus on the game. The enclosed, controlled space helps to eliminate all of that.
“He’s found a sport where he belongs,” MJ Scully said.
Giving those on the spectrum a chance to play sports can lead to them having increased cognitive functioning and social skills, decreases in challenging behaviors, and less need of moral support. Paddy now can score on the field while also scoring some time with his family.
“Just the smile on his face,” Paul Scully noted.
“He feels like he belongs,” MJ Scully voiced.
Every child on the Bowman’s XL.ENT team plays for free. She gets funding from the Ripitt Organization. Right now, XL.ENT is only in Orlando, but Bowman says she plans to expand her program to reach more players in the near future.