Getting Involved and Connected
Back in October 2022, we were given the amazing opportunity to work with Involve Kent’s Connect group for children and young people with ASC. These sessions were so popular that they now regularly ask us to partner with them to provide sessions. The question is, why is fishing so beneficial for those with ASC?
Children and young people can often be very sensitive to change and may benefit from repetition and predictability, our sessions provide both of these. All the young person has to do is to focus on the float, wait for it to go under and when it does, the chances are they have caught a fish, they then unhook and repeat. We purposely choose lakes in which we know the young people are guaranteed bites, in order for them to gain confidence and have constant reward for their concentration. Fishing can also help develop motor skills through the casting of a rod, the pulling in of a pole, or through putting the bait on the hook.
Fishing can also have cognitive, social and emotional benefits as well as helping support good mental and physical health. The colours of nature are proven to have a calming effect and can help young people with Autism and other conditions to feel less over stimulated. The sounds and the motions of the water can really help to create a soothing environment in which such young people can thrive.
Some children and young people can find communication with others a real struggle. Although fishing can be a lone sport, we find that the further into the session we get and the more excited the young people become, communication starts to develop. Young people who at the beginning would not speak, start to open up and share their experiences, not only with the new adults they have met, but the other young people in the group. It really is a pleasure to see their confidence grow in as little as one session and to see the pride on their faces from their achievements.
80% of children are affected by difficulties in planning, remembering, solving problems, focusing and organisation. Fishing can help with these executive functions in many ways. Planning and organisation skills can be developed through deciding which equipment and bait to use, whilst problem solving skills can be developed through deciding what depth to fish as well as how to untangle your line if you get it caught in a tree! We find a lot of parents saying to us that ‘their child never focuses this long on anything’, but as previously mentioned through the choice of lake, the young people are often fishing in lakes with guaranteed bites, thus helping to develop their focusing skills due to frequent rewards.
Children and young people with ASC can often struggle with sensory issues. We have found that because of this they are often reluctant to hold the maggots. However as the session progresses we often find that the young people become a bit curious, maybe touching one, by the end of the session they are throwing handfuls of maggots into the lake and often even holding the slimy fish they catch!
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