Activities for Autistic Teenagers

Discover engaging activities for autistic teenagers, promoting sensory integration, physical fitness, and social skills development. Thrive together!

May 6, 2024

Engaging Activities for Autistic Teenagers

Engaging in activities is incredibly important for autistic teenagers as it provides them with opportunities for growth, skill development, and enjoyment. Participating in various activities can have a positive impact on their overall well-being and quality of life.

Importance of Activities

Engaging in activities plays a crucial role in the lives of autistic teenagers. These activities provide a platform for them to explore new interests, develop new skills, and enhance their overall development. By participating in activities, teenagers can discover their strengths and passions, which can boost their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Activities also offer a structured and predictable environment, which is beneficial for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The predictability of activities can help reduce anxiety and provide a sense of security, allowing teenagers to feel more comfortable and at ease.

Furthermore, activities provide a platform for social interaction and the development of social skills. Autistic teenagers can engage with peers and adults in a structured setting, allowing them to practice communication, cooperation, and other vital social skills. These interactions can contribute to building meaningful relationships and fostering a sense of belonging.

Benefits of Participating

Participating in a variety of activities offers numerous benefits to autistic teenagers. Some of the key advantages include:

  • Skill Development: Activities provide opportunities for acquiring and refining various skills. For instance, martial arts classes can improve balance, coordination, and self-defense skills, while dancing can enhance coordination, rhythm, and self-expression. These new skills can boost confidence and self-efficacy.
  • Sensory Integration: Many autistic teenagers experience sensory processing difficulties. Engaging in sensory activities, such as art projects or animal therapy sessions, can help support sensory integration and regulation. These activities can provide a calming effect, improve focus and attention, and enhance overall well-being [1].
  • Physical Health: Physical activities, such as swimming or karate-based training, offer benefits for physical fitness and overall health [2]. These activities can improve gross motor skills, coordination, and strength, while also promoting cardiovascular health.
  • Cognitive Development: Activities can stimulate cognitive development and enhance cognitive functioning. Engaging in board games, reading, or storytelling activities can improve problem-solving abilities, critical thinking, and language skills.
  • Social Interaction: Participating in activities provides opportunities for social interaction and the development of social skills. Whether through team sports, board games, or dance classes, autistic teenagers can learn to communicate, cooperate, and build relationships with others.

By encouraging autistic teenagers to engage in diverse activities, parents, caregivers, and educators can support their growth and development. It's important to offer a range of activities to accommodate individual preferences and needs. Providing a supportive and inclusive environment will enable autistic teenagers to thrive and enjoy the many benefits that engaging activities have to offer.

Sensory Activities for Autistic Teens

Sensory activities play a crucial role in supporting the development and well-being of autistic teenagers. These activities can aid sensory integration, reduce anxiety and stress, and provide a means for individuals to regulate their sensory systems. Autistic teens may experience sensory processing differences, making it essential to cater to their specific sensory needs.

Sensory Integration

Sensory integration refers to the body's ability to process and integrate information from external and internal sources. For autistic teenagers, sensory integration can be challenging, leading to a sense of detachment from the world around them. Sensory activities can help regulate the nervous system and prevent the fight or flight response from being triggered, thus promoting a sense of self and well-being [3].

Calming Sensory Activities

Calming sensory activities provide a soothing and relaxing environment for autistic teens. These activities can help regulate the sensory system, reduce anxiety, and promote a sense of calm. Some examples of calming sensory activities include:

  • Sensory Circuits: A sensory circuit is a series of activities designed to stimulate different sensory systems in a structured and organized manner. It typically includes activities such as swinging, jumping, and deep pressure touch.
  • Sensory Bottles: Sensory bottles, also known as calm-down bottles or discovery bottles, are containers filled with various materials, such as water, glitter, or small objects. Shaking or observing the bottle can provide a calming visual and auditory experience.
  • Sensory Boxes: Sensory boxes contain a variety of tactile materials, such as sand, rice, or textured objects. Exploring and manipulating these materials can provide a soothing sensory experience.

Stimulating Sensory Activities

Stimulating sensory activities aim to engage and excite the senses of autistic teenagers. These activities can help individuals regulate their sensory systems and manage their sensory-seeking behaviors in a structured and appropriate manner. Some examples of stimulating sensory activities include:

  • Sensory Play: Sensory play involves engaging with materials that provide different sensory experiences, such as water play, sand play, or playing with textured materials. These activities can stimulate various senses and promote exploration and creativity.
  • Art Therapy: Art therapy involves using various art mediums, such as painting, drawing, or sculpting, to express emotions and engage the senses. It can be a valuable outlet for self-expression and sensory exploration.
  • Music Therapy: Music therapy utilizes music and sound to promote relaxation, self-expression, and sensory integration. Listening to music, playing instruments, or engaging in rhythmic activities can be beneficial for sensory stimulation.

By incorporating sensory activities into the daily routine of autistic teenagers, parents, educators, and caregivers can effectively support their sensory needs and promote overall well-being. It's important to understand and respect individual sensory preferences and sensitivities, providing a safe and supportive environment for sensory exploration and regulation.

Physical Activities for Autistic Teens

Engaging in physical activities can have numerous benefits for autistic teenagers, including improvements in communication, social skills, motor skills, and overall well-being. Here are three physical activities that have shown positive effects for autistic teens: martial arts, swimming, and karate-based training.

Martial Arts

Martial arts, such as karate, taekwondo, or judo, offer a structured and disciplined environment that can be particularly beneficial for autistic teenagers. Engaging in martial arts training can help improve communication skills, self-confidence, self-control, and focus. According to PubMed Central, martial arts have been singled out as a particularly beneficial activity for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The structured nature of martial arts classes, combined with the emphasis on respect and discipline, can provide a sense of routine and predictability that is often comforting for autistic teenagers. Additionally, the physical aspect of martial arts encourages gross motor skill development, coordination, and balance.


Swimming is another physical activity that can provide numerous benefits for autistic teenagers. According to PubMed Central, swimming activities have been found to be effective in improving gross motor skills and social skills in children with ASD.

Swimming offers a low-impact form of exercise that can help develop strength and coordination. The water provides a soothing and sensory-friendly environment, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with sensory sensitivities. Additionally, swimming can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety, allowing autistic teens to experience a calming effect while engaging in physical activity.

Karate-based Training

Karate-based training programs have shown positive outcomes for autistic children, including improved communication and increased neuronal plasticity mediated by increasing BDNF levels, as stated by PubMed Central. Karate-based training incorporates martial arts techniques with a focus on individual progress and self-discipline.

These programs provide structured routines and clear expectations, allowing autistic teenagers to develop self-control, concentration, and self-confidence. The practice of karate-based training can also enhance physical fitness, coordination, and balance.

Engaging in physical activities like martial arts, swimming, and karate-based training can have significant positive effects on autistic teenagers, improving their overall well-being, physical health, and social skills. It is essential to consider the individual needs and preferences of the teenager when selecting the most suitable physical activity.

Social and Recreational Activities

Engaging in social and recreational activities can be highly beneficial for autistic teenagers. These activities provide opportunities for social interaction, skill development, and personal growth. In this section, we will explore three activities that are particularly beneficial for autistic teenagers: board games, dancing, and reading and storytelling.

Board Games

Board games offer a variety of benefits for autistic teenagers. They can enhance narrative ability, conversation skills, and problem-solving abilities. Michigan Medicine's Theory of Mind Gaming Program utilizes board games as part of speech therapy for teenagers with autism, recognizing their potential to improve social and cognitive skills.

Playing board games in a group setting allows for opportunities to practice turn-taking, following rules, and effective communication. Additionally, board games can foster creativity and imagination, providing a safe and structured environment for social interaction.


Engaging in dance activities can have numerous positive effects on autistic teenagers. Dancing can lead to the release of endorphins, which can boost mood and happiness. It also provides an outlet for self-expression and creativity, allowing teenagers to explore different movements and develop their own unique style.

Dance classes or group sessions can further enhance social interaction skills by providing opportunities to collaborate and work together with peers. It can improve coordination, balance, and body awareness, while also boosting self-confidence and self-esteem. Dancing in a group setting can create a supportive and inclusive environment where autistic teenagers can feel comfortable expressing themselves.

Reading and Storytelling

Reading and storytelling activities offer a range of benefits for autistic teenagers. Reading books can help improve cognition, keep the brain active, and enhance reading comprehension skills. Encouraging a variety of genres, such as educational, fiction, and scientific books, can provide opportunities for learning and personal growth.

Engaging in storytelling activities can help develop a stronger imagination, improve language skills and communication, and build confidence. Autistic teenagers can recount events from their own lives or create their own imaginative stories. These activities encourage self-expression, creativity, and the development of narrative skills [4].

By participating in these social and recreational activities, autistic teenagers can not only have fun but also develop important social skills, enhance cognitive abilities, and boost their self-confidence. It's important to create a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages their participation and celebrates their unique strengths and talents.

Community Programs and Support

In addition to engaging activities specifically designed for autistic teenagers, community programs and support play a vital role in providing further opportunities for growth and development. These programs offer a supportive environment where teenagers with autism can thrive and connect with others who share similar experiences. Here are some avenues for community programs and support:

Non-profit Organizations

Non-profit organizations play a crucial role in providing activities and resources for children and teenagers on the autism spectrum. They offer a range of programs tailored to the unique needs of individuals with autism. Here are a few notable non-profit organizations that provide activities for autistic teenagers:

Non-profit OrganizationDescriptionAsperger/Autism Network (AANE)AANE offers numerous programs and resources tailored to children, teenagers, and adults on the Autism Spectrum, ensuring that individuals with autism at all stages of life receive the necessary support.Have DreamsBased in Chicago, Have Dreams offers a variety of support programs for children, teenagers, and adults with ASD, focusing on fostering social, vocational, and independent living skills.4 Paws For Ability Inc.This organization trains and places quality, task-trained service dogs that provide increased independence and social interaction for children with ASD [5].The Best Day FoundationThe Best Day Foundation offers adventure activities such as surfing, bodyboarding, kayaking, and snow sports to help children with special needs build confidence and self-esteem.Autism SpeaksAutism Speaks offers a wide range of resources, including toolkits for parents and autism organizations, and organizes events and activities for children with ASD [5].

Therapeutic Programs

Therapeutic programs are specifically designed to cater to the unique needs of autistic teenagers. These programs focus on developing various skills, including social interactions, communication, and emotional well-being. Therapeutic programs can include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy, among others. They provide a structured and supportive environment where teenagers can work on specific goals and enhance their overall development.

Online Support Options

In today's digital age, online support options have become increasingly accessible and beneficial for autistic teenagers and their families. Online communities and resources provide a platform for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and connecting with others who understand the challenges and triumphs of living with autism. Online support options can include forums, social media groups, webinars, and virtual support groups. These platforms offer a sense of community, guidance, and a wealth of information that can be accessed from the comfort of one's home.

By exploring community programs and support options, autistic teenagers can find the additional resources and connections they need to thrive. These programs and support systems provide opportunities for personal growth, skill development, and a sense of belonging within a supportive community.

Strategies for Developing Social Skills

Developing social skills is an important aspect of growth and independence for autistic teenagers. There are several strategies that can be employed to help them navigate social situations and build meaningful connections with others. Here are three effective strategies for developing social skills: role-playing, social skills training, and using visual supports.


Role-playing is a valuable technique that allows autistic teenagers to practice social interactions in a safe and controlled environment. It involves acting out different social scenarios and exploring appropriate responses. By engaging in role-playing exercises, teenagers can develop a better understanding of social cues, learn problem-solving skills, and enhance their communication abilities. This strategy can be facilitated by parents, therapists, or peers, and can be tailored to specific social situations that the teenager may find challenging.

Social Skills Training

Social skills training programs provide structured guidance and support to autistic teenagers in developing essential social skills. Programs such as Stop Think Do, Secret Agent Society (SAS), or PEERS® are designed to address specific social challenges and provide strategies for successful social interactions. These programs often incorporate behavior modeling, role-playing, and group activities to teach important skills such as initiating conversations, making eye contact, and understanding non-verbal cues. Social skills training can be conducted in individual or group settings and is typically led by trained professionals.

Using Visual Supports

Visual supports, such as pictures, prompt cards, and social stories, can be highly effective in helping autistic teenagers understand and engage in social situations. Visual supports provide clear and concrete cues that assist in learning and remembering social expectations. They can be used to illustrate appropriate behaviors, facilitate conversation starters, or provide reminders about social rules. Visual supports can be customized to the individual's specific needs and can be used in various settings, including school, home, or community activities.

By employing these strategies, autistic teenagers can develop and refine their social skills, ultimately enhancing their ability to navigate social interactions and form meaningful connections with others. It is important to remember that each individual is unique, and strategies should be tailored to their specific strengths and challenges. With patience, practice, and the right support, autistic teenagers can thrive socially and enjoy fulfilling relationships.



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