My two boys, my husband and I joined other families at a bowling alley for the monthly field trip for participants of a summer arts camp for children with Asperger's Syndrome and high functioning autism. Seven other campers, their siblings, and at least one parent bowled two games. For some of the campers, it was their first time for bowling. For most of the others, it was a rare opportunity. Many gutter balls were thrown.
It was a parent, however, who was actually the bowler who could have won the blooper award for bowling that day. During one turn, the ball flew out of the hand during the backward swing. It would have rolled backwards quite a bit. However, the vigilant spouse of the bowler stopped the ball in two seconds--a miracle in itself because the spouse isn't that coordinated either. Mostly, the successful stop was the result of being in the right place at the right time. Anyway, quite a few spectators saw that blooper and laughter abounded. The bowler laughed along with the rest of us.
Everyone was a pretty good sport, but I did see some strategies employed to get better scores. One fourteen-year-old bowler did not hesitate when taking the opportunity to use a ramp that small children use to roll the ball down the lane. He also tried rolling the ball between his legs. I'm not sure what his score was, but his mom and I noticed that he was attempting (without much success) to change his score from the control panel. She intervened and he did not protest that much when she stopped him. His strategies must of not have worked too well.
Another boy, almost thirteen, tried changing lanes, shoes, and balls to try to do better. I'm not sure how much luck he had as he was several lanes down from my family. I only know about those strategies because his mom told me.
One novice threw gutter after gutter ball, but he kept a smile on his face and appeared to be having fun. This bowler's strategies were less obvious. I noticed he was able to bowl the proper way without any help. I imagine this boy will do pretty well in the future if he gets more opportunities to bowl. He just needs to practice technique.
My nine year old (who needs physical and occupational therapy)and four-year-old boy both used one of the three ramps available. For some reason the older boy did well and received a 104 for his first game. It was one of the higher scores of the day. My little boy only got a fifteen even though he used the ramp and had help with positioning the ramp. He became quickly frustrated, though a heavier ball improved his score a little bit.
Everyone seemed to have a good time, although there obviously wasn't a lot of opportunities for the kids to interact with each other. It was parallel play at its best.
Some tips for autism families when bowling:
1. Call ahead to reserve lanes or to make sure there is open bowling. Keep in mind many alleys close lanes to walk-ins for bowling leagues.
2. Plan to go when there isn't much smoke because some people with Autism Spectrum Disorder have sensitivities to odors and may also have allergies.
Sunday afternoon worked out well for us and I suspect Saturday afternoons might be OK too. University alleys usually have open bowling times for community members and smoking bans in buildings.
3. Let the kids come up with their own strategies to do better unless they get really frustrated.
4. Keep an emphasis on having a good time and model good behaviour by laughing at one's own mistakes.
5. Bring headphones or ear plugs along if child has sensitivities to sound.
6. Bring favorite snacks along--especially at a bowling party where food is served. This is important if the child prefers only a few foods or has food allergies and/or sensitivities to certain foods.