Activities for Autistic Teenagers

As a parent or caregiver, it is important to find activities that are both fun and engaging while still promoting their personal growth. Here are some activities that can help your autistic teenager thrive.

reuben kesherim
Ruben Kesherim
November 18, 2023

Activities for Autistic Teenagers

Understanding Autism and Recreation

Recreation plays a vital role in the lives of autistic teenagers, providing them with opportunities for enjoyment, self-expression, and social interaction. Understanding the importance of recreation for autistic teenagers and tailoring activities to suit their individual needs can greatly enhance their overall well-being and quality of life.

The Importance of Recreation for Autistic Teenagers

Recreation is not just about having fun; it also serves as a valuable tool for autistic teenagers to develop and improve various skills. Engaging in recreational activities can help them enhance their social skills, communication abilities, motor coordination, and sensory processing. It provides a platform for them to explore their interests, express themselves creatively, and build self-confidence.

Participating in recreational activities also offers opportunities for autistic teenagers to interact with peers and form meaningful connections. It can foster a sense of belonging and help them develop friendships based on shared interests and experiences. The social interactions that occur during recreational activities can enhance their social skills and promote positive relationships.

Furthermore, recreation can serve as a means of stress relief and relaxation for autistic teenagers. Engaging in enjoyable activities can help reduce anxiety and improve overall emotional well-being. By participating in recreational activities, they can experience a sense of accomplishment, boost their self-esteem, and develop a positive outlook on life.

Tailoring Activities to Suit Individual Needs

When selecting recreational activities for autistic teenagers, it is essential to consider their individual needs and preferences. Each teenager with autism is unique, and their interests, sensory sensitivities, and communication styles may vary. Tailoring activities to suit their specific needs can help create a positive and inclusive environment.

Here are some factors to consider when selecting and adapting recreational activities for autistic teenagers:

  1. Sensory Considerations: Take into account sensory sensitivities and preferences. Some autistic teenagers may have sensory processing differences and may benefit from activities that provide sensory input or create a calm and soothing environment.
  2. Communication Support: Ensure that activities provide opportunities for communication and expression. Visual supports, such as visual schedules or social stories, can help autistic teenagers understand expectations and navigate the activity.
  3. Interests and Strengths: Incorporate activities that align with their interests and strengths. Autistic teenagers often have unique talents and passions, and engaging in activities that they enjoy can enhance their motivation and overall engagement.
  4. Flexibility and Accommodations: Adapt activities to accommodate individual needs and provide flexibility. This may include modifying rules, adjusting time frames, or offering additional support. Creating a structured and predictable environment can help autistic teenagers feel more comfortable and confident. F

By understanding the importance of recreation for autistic teenagers and tailoring activities to suit their individual needs, parents and caregivers can provide them with meaningful and enjoyable experiences.

Engaging in recreational activities can contribute to their overall well-being, promote skill development, and foster social connections. Remember, selecting the right activities and creating a supportive environment can make a significant difference in their recreational experiences.

woman reading book while sitting on chair

Physical Activities

Engaging in physical activities can provide numerous benefits for autistic teenagers. These activities not only promote physical fitness but also contribute to their overall well-being and social development. Here are three physical activities that are particularly beneficial for autistic teenagers: swimming, martial arts, and yoga.


Swimming is a popular physical activity for individuals with autism due to its sensory-friendly nature. The water provides a soothing and calming environment, which can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Swimming also offers a range of physical benefits, including improved coordination, muscle strength, and cardiovascular fitness.

Swimming lessons tailored to the needs of autistic teenagers can be highly beneficial. These lessons often focus on building water confidence, teaching basic swimming skills, and promoting safety in and around the water. It's important to ensure that the swimming instructor is experienced in working with individuals with special needs.

Martial Arts

Martial arts, such as karate, taekwondo, or judo, can offer autistic teenagers a structured and disciplined physical activity. Martial arts training emphasizes self-control, focus, and self-defense techniques. By participating in martial arts classes, teenagers can develop better body awareness, motor skills, and coordination.

Many martial arts schools offer specialized classes for individuals with autism. These classes may incorporate visual aids, clear instructions, and individualized teaching methods to accommodate the unique needs of autistic teenagers. It's advisable to research and find a martial arts instructor who has experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum.


Yoga is a gentle and low-impact physical activity that can be beneficial for autistic teenagers. It combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques to promote strength, flexibility, and mindfulness. Yoga can help reduce anxiety, improve body awareness, and enhance self-regulation skills.

Autistic teenagers can benefit from participating in yoga classes specifically designed for individuals with special needs. These classes often provide a structured and predictable environment, visual supports, and modified poses to cater to individual abilities and sensory sensitivities. Yoga can be a valuable tool for promoting relaxation and self-care.

By incorporating physical activities like swimming, martial arts, and yoga into the lives of autistic teenagers, parents can provide them with opportunities for physical fitness, self-expression, and social interaction. It's important to consider the individual needs and preferences of each teenager when selecting activities and to create a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages their participation.

Creative Activities

Engaging in creative activities can be a wonderful way for autistic teenagers to express themselves, explore their interests, and develop various skills. Creative activities provide opportunities for self-expression, sensory exploration, and social interaction. Here are three creative activities that can be particularly beneficial for autistic teenagers: art and crafts, music and dance, and drama and acting.

Art and Crafts

Art and crafts activities allow autistic teenagers to tap into their creativity and engage in sensory exploration. These activities can include drawing, painting, sculpting, and various other forms of artistic expression. Art and crafts provide a means of communication and self-expression, allowing autistic teenagers to convey their thoughts and emotions visually.

Engaging in art and crafts activities can also promote fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and concentration. It provides a sense of accomplishment and boosts self-esteem when they complete a project. Consider providing a variety of materials and textures to cater to individual sensory preferences.

Music and Dance

Music and dance activities can have a profound impact on autistic teenagers. They provide a multisensory experience that stimulates auditory, visual, and kinesthetic senses. Music therapy has been shown to improve communication skills, social interaction, and emotional well-being.

Engaging in music and dance activities can involve playing musical instruments, singing, dancing, or even listening to music. These activities provide an outlet for self-expression and can be tailored to individual preferences and abilities. Consider exploring different genres of music and various styles of dance to find what resonates with your teenager.

Drama and Acting

Drama and acting activities can be highly engaging for autistic teenagers, allowing them to explore different roles, emotions, and social dynamics. Acting provides an opportunity for individuals to step into someone else's shoes, enhancing empathy and perspective-taking skills. Drama activities can also improve verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as social interaction.

Consider enrolling your teenager in drama classes or participating in community theater groups. These activities provide a structured environment where they can learn and practice acting skills while building confidence and social connections.

Engaging in creative activities like art and crafts, music and dance, and drama and acting can be highly rewarding for autistic teenagers. It's essential to provide a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages self-expression, accommodates sensory needs, and promotes social interaction. These activities can be tailored to suit individual interests and abilities, allowing each teenager to explore and develop their creative potential.

Outdoor Activities

Engaging in outdoor activities can provide numerous benefits for autistic teenagers. These activities allow them to explore the world around them, connect with nature, and develop important skills. In this section, we will explore three outdoor activities that can be enjoyable and beneficial for autistic teenagers: hiking and nature walks, gardening, and camping.

Hiking and Nature Walks

Hiking and nature walks offer a wonderful opportunity for autistic teenagers to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy physical activity. The serene environment and natural surroundings can have a calming effect, providing a sensory-rich experience.

When engaging in hiking or nature walks with autistic teenagers, it's important to choose trails that are suitable for their abilities and interests. Start with shorter, well-maintained trails and gradually increase the difficulty level as they become more comfortable. Encourage them to observe and interact with their surroundings, pointing out interesting plants, animals, or natural features along the way.


Gardening can be a highly rewarding and therapeutic activity for autistic teenagers. It allows them to connect with nature, learn about plants and their life cycles, and develop a sense of responsibility. Gardening also provides opportunities for sensory exploration, as they can feel the soil, smell the flowers, and observe the vibrant colors of the plants.

To engage autistic teenagers in gardening, start with simple tasks such as planting seeds or watering plants. Allow them to choose the types of plants they want to grow, which can increase their sense of ownership and motivation. Gardening can be done in a backyard, community garden, or even in pots or containers for those with limited space.


Camping can be an exciting adventure for autistic teenagers, offering a break from routine and a chance to experience new environments. It provides opportunities for sensory exploration, social interaction, and skill-building. Camping trips can be tailored to suit individual needs and comfort levels, ensuring a positive experience for everyone involved.

When planning a camping trip with autistic teenagers, consider their specific sensory sensitivities and preferences. Choose a campsite that offers a balance between a tranquil natural setting and necessary amenities. Gradually introduce camping through backyard camping experiences before venturing out to more remote locations. Engage them in setting up tents, preparing meals, and participating in outdoor activities such as hiking or stargazing.

By incorporating these outdoor activities into the lives of autistic teenagers, parents can enhance their overall well-being and provide opportunities for growth and development. Remember to consider individual preferences, abilities, and comfort levels when selecting and participating in outdoor activities.

people sitting on grass field

Social Activities

Engaging in social activities is not only enjoyable but also beneficial for autistic teenagers. These activities provide opportunities for social interaction, skill development, and building friendships. Here are some social activities that can be particularly beneficial for autistic teenagers:

Group Sports

Participating in group sports can be a great way for autistic teenagers to enhance their social skills and physical fitness. Team sports such as soccer, basketball, or baseball offer opportunities for structured social interaction, teamwork, and developing communication skills. Additionally, engaging in sports can promote physical well-being and improve coordination.

Sport Benefits
Soccer Teamwork, communication, coordination
Basketball Social interaction, physical fitness
Baseball Teamwork, coordination, focus

To make the experience more enjoyable and inclusive, it's important to choose sports programs that offer specialized coaching and accommodate the specific needs of autistic individuals. This ensures that the environment is supportive and conducive to their participation.

Board Games and Card Games

Board games and card games provide a fun and interactive way for autistic teenagers to engage in social activities. These games can enhance cognitive skills such as problem-solving, decision-making, and turn-taking, all while promoting social interaction and communication.

When selecting games, consider those that are age-appropriate and align with the interests of the individual. Cooperative games, where players work together towards a common goal, can be particularly beneficial for fostering teamwork and collaboration.

Game Benefits
Chess Strategy, critical thinking, focus
Uno Turn-taking, color and number recognition
Scrabble Vocabulary, spelling, cognitive skills

Introduce games gradually, providing clear instructions and modifications as needed. It's important to create a structured and supportive environment, allowing autistic teenagers to feel comfortable and engaged during the game.

Social Clubs and Organizations

Joining social clubs or organizations specifically designed for autistic individuals can provide a supportive and inclusive environment for social engagement. These groups offer opportunities to meet like-minded peers, engage in shared interests, and develop social connections.

Autistic teenagers can explore clubs focused on various hobbies and interests, such as art, music, technology, or gaming. These clubs often organize structured activities, workshops, and events where participants can interact and build friendships.

Social Club/Organization Benefits
Art Club Creative expression, social interaction
Gaming Club Shared interests, teamwork, problem-solving
Music Group Music appreciation, social connections

Finding local social clubs and organizations can be done through online directories, community centers, or by reaching out to local autism support groups. These clubs can provide a safe and understanding environment where autistic teenagers can thrive socially.

By incorporating social activities into the lives of autistic teenagers, parents can help them develop important social skills, foster connections, and increase their overall well-being. It's essential to consider individual preferences and needs when selecting social activities, ensuring that they are enjoyable and meaningful experiences.

Tips for Engaging Autistic Teenagers in Recreational Activities

Engaging autistic teenagers in recreational activities can be a rewarding and positive experience for both parents and their children. To ensure a successful and enjoyable experience, it's important to consider their unique needs and provide the necessary support. Here are some helpful tips for engaging autistic teenagers in recreational activities:

Creating a Structured Environment

Autistic teenagers often thrive in structured environments that provide predictability and routine. When planning recreational activities, it's beneficial to create a structured schedule or visual timetable. This can help them understand what to expect and reduce anxiety or uncertainty. Use visual aids such as charts or pictures to represent different activities and their sequence. Involving them in the process of creating the schedule can also empower them and increase their sense of control.

Providing Clear Instructions and Expectations

Clear communication is key when engaging autistic teenagers in recreational activities. Provide simple and concise instructions, breaking down complex tasks into smaller steps. Use visual supports, such as written or visual cues, to enhance understanding. It's important to be patient and allow time for processing and response. Clearly communicate the expectations for behavior and participation, ensuring they understand what is required of them.

Allowing for Flexibility and Accommodations

Flexibility is crucial when engaging autistic teenagers in recreational activities. Understand that their needs and preferences may change from day to day or even within an activity. Be prepared to adapt and modify activities as needed. Allow for breaks or downtime if they become overwhelmed or need sensory regulation. Consider their sensory needs and make accommodations if necessary, such as providing noise-cancelling headphones or a quiet space to retreat to.

By creating a structured environment, providing clear instructions, and allowing for flexibility and accommodations, parents can effectively engage autistic teenagers in recreational activities. Remember that every individual is unique, and it's important to tailor the approach based on their specific needs and interests.


How do I know if an activity is appropriate for my autistic teenager?

It is important to consider your child's interests, abilities, and sensory sensitivities when choosing activities. Some autistic teenagers may be overwhelmed by loud noises or bright lights, while others may have difficulty with fine motor skills. Consider consulting with a therapist or specialist who can provide guidance on what types of activities may be most beneficial for your child.

What if my child has trouble communicating during group activities?

Group activities can be challenging for some autistic teenagers who struggle with communication and social skills. Consider providing your child with visual aids or social stories that can help them understand what is expected during the activity. You can also work with the group leader or facilitator to create accommodations that will help your child participate more fully.

How can I encourage my child to try new activities?

Autistic teenagers may have difficulty stepping outside their comfort zone and trying new things. Start by introducing new activities slowly and in a non-threatening way. Focus on activities that align with your child's interests and strengths, and offer plenty of positive reinforcement and praise. Encourage your child to take small steps towards trying new things, and celebrate their successes along the way.

Are there any safety concerns I should be aware of when participating in outdoor activities?

Safety should always be a top priority when participating in outdoor activities. Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather, wear sunscreen and insect repellent as needed, and bring plenty of water and snacks. Always supervise your child during physical activities like biking or swimming, and consider enrolling them in classes or programs that teach safety skills like CPR or first aid.


Autistic teenagers require special care and attention to help them thrive. Engaging in fun and stimulating activities can help them develop social, communication, and motor skills. As a parent or caregiver, it is important to find activities that your child enjoys, as it will encourage them to participate and engage. Try some of the activities listed above and watch as your child grows and develops in a fun and engaging way!