Physical Education Activities for Children With Autism: Let’s Get Physical the Right Way!

Autism lesson plans for physical education need to be tailored to the needs of the child with autism. Since children with autism struggle with competitive activities and often do not understand the concept of teams, it may be beneficial to the students to find forms of physical education that allow them to be active while not being upset by concepts that bother them. The ideas below demonstrate how this can be practiced.

A Few Ideas


Set up plastic bowling pins and demonstrate how to bowl the pins with a plastic bowling ball. Do not keep score if competition bothers the students but simply let them enjoy the act of bowling. One way to make this more enjoyable is to have different colored pins and ask the students to aim for specific pins.

Warm Ups

Children with autism may enjoy warm up exercises in particular since they can do this on an individual basis and may enjoy the way it makes their muscles feel. Many children with autism enjoy the sensation of pressure in some form or another and may even want to use warm ups as coping skills. Try some of the warm ups below.

  • Stretches – Have the students do stretching exercises such as neck rolls, grass pickers and side stretches.
  • Jumping Jacks – These are always a childhood favorite and are a great way to warm up.
  • Have students stretch parts of their bodies one by one as they sit or stand in a comfortable position. Not only is this a great way to warm up, but it also relieves tension in the body.

Relaxation Techniques

Teach students relaxation techniques by having them sit or lay on a mat on the floor as you play soft music in the background. Starting with the toes, talk the students through the relaxation of each and every muscle in their body. This is good for making the students aware of different parts of their bodies and how to control them, as well as giving students a new coping skill to use in times of stress.

Two Step

Separate students into pairs. Give each pair a large ball to bounce. Have the students pass the ball to each other by making it bounce once on the ground before their partner catches it. Every time they bounce the ball, they then take two steps back and repeat the action. Please note that students who do not want to work in pairs can also do this by bouncing the ball once before it hits the wall, though they may need someone to catch the ball for them.

Student’s Choice

Almost any standard physical education lesson plan can be modified to teach autistic students about the importance of physical fitness. Simply assess the needs of the students and modify the plan accordingly. Talk to students and ask them what they enjoy doing, then create lesson plans based on each student’s likes and dislikes. Use these activities as rewards at the end of the week by choosing the preferences of a different student each time.