Bowling Social Story: Preparing your child with autism for a sport.

We developed this bowling social story to prepare an active girl with autism to participate in a sport. We’ll call her Lanie.

Lanie’s parents are both athletic. In fact, both played soccer in college. From the day that Lanie was born, they could not wait to watch their little girl play soccer. For the first few years of Lanie’s life, all signs pointed toward an athletic future. At age three, however, Lanie started to show some of the signs associated with autism. By age four, when some kids start pee wee soccer, Lanie was officially diagnosed with autism. The sobering diagnosis did not change the fact that Lanie was athletic, but her athletic career would have to wait. For the next 4 years after the diagnosis, Lanie spent countless hours with various therapists and has made tremendous progress.

Two weeks ago with the new soccer season starting, Lanie’s parents expressed some sadness that they would have to postpone athletics for another year. That got us thinking at Kidmunicate. We know Lanie is not quite ready for a team sport like soccer, and maybe never will be, but that does not mean she cannot play a sport. The next time Lanie’s mom came in for therapy, we suggested that Lanie start bowling. We said it is the perfect sport for Lanie because the game is so structured and repetitive. A big smile appeared on Lanie’s mom’s face.

Bowling is the number one participation sport in America with over 68 million people playing. Bowling is a favorite activity for children too with over 40% playing at least once over the last 12 months. And it is a serious sport with over 3 million dollars in college scholarships awarded each year amd professional league. It is an easy sport to start. Most bowling alleys have youth programs, coaches and leagues.

The next time Lanie came in for therapy, Lanie’s mom said that Lanie was going to start bowling. That’s when, I told Lanie’s parents about the success that we have had using social stories to prepare children with autism for new experiences. (Click here for additional social stories) I promised her that we would create a bowling social story to help Lanie prepare for her new sport.  “Preparing to go bowling” was created for Lanie and for all athletic children with autism who want to participate in a sport.

See the picture social story below or download the PDF Kidmunicate Social Stories: Perparing to go bowling. If you want the Powerpoint presentation to customize the story for your child’s specific needs, send us an email.

The Kidmunication Point

A child with autism is a child first and foremost. As such, if possible, they should try to do the things that all kids like to do. One of those things is to participate in a sport. If the child can play a team sport and benefit from the experience, then go for it. If the child is not ready for a team sport, find an individual sport that suits their abilities. We think that bowling is a good place to start if they can handle the sensorial aspect of bowling (flashing lights, loud noise, the oil on the ball, etc.)  Here are several reasons why we think that bowling could be good for a child with autism.

  1. It’s easy to do.
  2. It’s fun.
  3. It is the same repetitive action over and over. Roll the ball down the lane twice sit down and wait for your turn. Repeat.
  4. Success is attainable for everyone, especially if you use bumpers.
  5. Electronic scoring measures success, so your child can see results and set goals.
  6. Like any sport, it takes practice to get better.
  7. There are youth leagues.
  8. It’s a lifetime sport.
  9. It’s loud, so you do not have to worry about your child disrupting others.  (Of course this could be an eliminating factor for kids with sensory issues.)
  10. It’s relatively safe. (Just keep their hands away from the ball return machine.)
  11. They can learn some social skills, like taking turns and celebrating success.

The key is pre-planning. Picture social stories are a great tool to use to prepare your child for any new experience. “Preparing to go bowling” is our newest social story.

Here are 13 tips to prepare your autistic child to go bowling.

  1. It is important to use this picture story to start preparing your child for their first bowling experience weeks before going. You want to increase your chances of success so that your child will want to go again.
    • We recommend that you read the story every day at the same time during the weeks leading up to the event.
  2. Customize the picture story by adding or eliminating elements that are not relevant for your child.
  3. Buy a plastic toy bowling game to teach the concept of bowling.
  4. Watch Pro Bowling on TV or watch a YouTube video of bowling to expose your child to the sport.
  5. For your child’s first bowling experience, you might want to go on a day that it is less crowded, perhaps Saturday or Sunday morning. (Call your local bowling alley to get suggested days and times to go.)
  6. Make sure that your child is wearing socks before you leave the house.
  7. Tell your child to keep their hands away from the ball return.
  8. Tell your child not to cross the line on the alley.
  9. Pack noise canceling headphones, if necessary:
    • Tell your child that they can put them on whenever they want.
  10. Get the bowling alley attendant to put the bumpers up the first couple of times.
  11. Relax, let your child be him or herself. It’s a bowling alley not a quiet theater.
  12. After a few times, set scoring goals.
  13. If your child enjoys bowling and grasps the social aspects of the game, get a coach and join a youth league.
    • On line I found that some bowling alleys have leagues for children with disabilities.

If you enjoy this Preparing to Go Bowling social story look at our growing series of social stories which includes, Preparing for a Beach Trip, Preparing to go to a MLB Baseball Game and Preparing for an Airplane Trip.