Autism and a New Athletic Experience

Autism and a New Athletic Experience

My son likes to try new things, a quality I admire.

Sometimes, he says “I want to try this or that,” and it turns out he doesn’t like it.  

What did he want to try?

This happened a few years ago with a place called IFly, a sky diving simulator experience.

He really wanted to try it, but when he got there and got outfitted and received the instructions, he got nervous.

My son did the IFly, he got into the simulator with the instructor, and (sort of) got into the sky diving position.

The IFly experience

However, he later said he wasn’t comfortable at all. The simulator is a wind tube and he didn’t like so much wind on his face while having to hold up his body in the sky diving position (stomach down, arms and legs curled up, back arched).

In other words, it was a challenge. Still, he said he happy that he did it.

He didn’t want to do it again.

The sky diving experience wasn’t exactly cheap, but I was happy that he tried it.

Other examples

There are other examples of times when he wanted to try things. For the most part, those things didn’t break the bank and he either enjoyed the experience as a one-off or it became something more consistent.  

What’s the latest one?

A triathlon.

Or, more accurately, a partial triathlon. (I’ll explain)

My son is on a Rose Bowl Aquatic Center swim team that is designated for people with special needs. Besides swimming, they also organize teams that can complete in other athletic events. One of them is a local Pasadena triathlon.

How do they assemble teams?

They ask any team member interested in participating in the Pasadena Triathlon, what “leg” they want to do (swim, bike, run). They can do one, two, or all three!

This was my son’s first time. He decided he wanted to do it about a month before the event. For a couple of weeks, he couldn’t decide on running or swimming, but finally decided on running.

The run is three miles.

The tri team (one of two teams fielded by the swim team) but organized so that every athletic had a “helper/coach.” There was a helper/coach who biked with the athlete who was doing the biking, one to swim with that athlete doing the swimming, and yet another one to run with the running athlete.

So, my son had a helper/coach with him. (P.S. The guy and my son totally bonded…they both play Smash Ultimate and love to travel!)

Did my son prepare for this? 

My son does well in P.E. Being in high school, the kids have to run a mile once per quarter. The teacher has them work up to it. One lap, then two, etc. (it’s four track laps per mile)

He runs the mile at around eight minutes.

On most weekends, I encourage him to go to the gym to get in some extra running.

While at the gym, he will do some work with the weights. He likes it (it’s not like pulling teeth).

When I “encourage” gym visits, my goal is to instill a sense of consistency in exercise.

I do it, so does his dad. It’s a life-long thing, not just for school P.E.


A week before the tri, I took him to the Rose Bowl to practice the running route. (We live close.)

He had done this route many times, but never running/walking. He had always been on his razor scooter riding while I did the running/walking.

He completed the three miles, but had to stop two or three times. I told him that it was fine, the coaches told us that he could run as much as possible and walk when he needed. There was no pressure to run the whole time. Lots of people did it that way.

How did he do?


He ran the three miles in (approximately) 30 minutes. And, he didn’t stop. He ran the whole way.

When he was finished, he said, “Wow, I can’t believe I did it without stopping.”

“I didn’t think I could do it, but I did.”

And, my favorite, “I’m proud of myself.”

I was proud of him, too. I told him so. (So did his dad.)

Another new experience in the books. And, this one, he wants to do again! I approve. Autism and a New Athletic Experience.

Here’s an article about how to match your child with autism to a sport/athletic event:


More on Kimberly Kaplan:

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