Excerpt from: Autism Support Network (click for full article)
When discussing sports or, more importantly, preparing for life skills and daily challenges, it is necessary to address all facets of movement. Basically, we move in all sorts of directions throughout the day, and the more we can practice or train the proper way to perform these actions, the less likelihood of injury, greater ability to perform complex movements, and more joy of movement we are able to develop. Forgive my Andy Rooney approach here, but I think joy of movement is something that children have lost over the last decade. I can recall playing outside, running around, tumbling, falling, getting back up, and climbing around for hours. I do not see too many young individuals playing outside anymore, and when I see adolescents and teenagers playing pickup games of basketball or football, the hours spent in front of the television or playing video games is clearly evident. Within the world of autism, I notice a consistent trend of poor lifestyle accommodations (television, sitting for long periods of time, little physical activity) being combined with the movement inhibition and difficulties that many young individuals with autism experience.
Sports are highly evolved activities requiring very specific and complicated movement patterns. To expect a young individual to be able to play a sport with any amount of skill when they do not have the basic physical foundations necessary is unfair and potentially dangerous. Having said that, I will try to steer this article around to the point of being fun.
One of the most commonly overlooked physical skills is changing direction. When we run, stop, and move in a different direction in sports or during daily life, we depend on lateral motion. Lateral motion refers to side-to-side movement. Being able to stop in mid-sprint, turn right or left, and begin running again is one of the most difficult and important skills a human body can perform. Do we use lateral motion on a daily basis? Sure. Getting in and out of a car is lateral motion. Standing up from behind a desk is lateral motion. Stepping up or down from a curb can be a lateral motion.