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Activities for Autistic Adults

At a Glance

In this post, we're sharing ideas for activities for autistic adults to do at home and in the community.

For many autistic adults, finding activities that check all the boxes of fun, fulfilling, and providing a safe and comfortable environment can be a tricky one.

We walk through considerations (like interests, wants, and needs) and then dive into the big list of activities.

For many autistic adults, finding activities that check all the boxes of fun, fulfilling, and providing a safe and comfortable environment can be a tricky one. 


Many activity spaces are not made with autistic people in mind, and even if you find activities that overlap your interests a given group might just not be the right fit for you. 


In a perfect world, the people running these activities would consistently include some consideration for autistic participants, but in many cases autistic individuals have to choose whether they prefer to navigate a smaller set of options or the possibility of not having their needs addressed in a particular space.


All of this is to say, finding the right activities can be hard! We frequently receive questions from self-advocates, family members, and caregivers about finding activities that work either in the home or more public settings.


We also want to hear from self-advocates, parents, and caregivers! If there’s an activity you are excited about sharing or think everyone should know about, drop us a line at hello@autismgrownup.com


Otherwise, let’s dive into figuring out where to start when you’re not sure at all!


Establishing Your Interests, Wants, Needs, and Boundaries

Seeing those words in big bold letters can make it seem quite serious just for picking out an activity, but evaluating your preferences doesn’t have to be an overly involved exercise and can come quite in handy for making judgment calls about activities that have some pros and cons. 


If you are a family member or caregiver supporting an autistic person in your life, these questions can also be great for establishing you are on the same page while working together to find the right activities.

  • Interests

    • What types of subjects are you generally drawn to?

      • Examples: history, art, gardening, sports, fantasy, science fiction, computers, internet memes, sketch comedy, Disney movies, cartoons

      • You can be as broad or specific as you want to!

    • What are some activities you currently enjoy or used to enjoy?

      • Are there any connected activities you might be able to expand to?

      • Are there any obstacles to enjoying that particular activity more often?

  • Wants

    • What are some ways that you hope a new activity will improve your personal well-being?

      • Examples: having fun, learning a new skill, meeting new people, achieving a goal you can’t accomplish by yourself

      • The key to this question is the word “personal” - if you feel like something is improving your personal well-being even in a very small way that’s a great thing to list here.

    • What are some experiences you’d be interested in having, independent of the activities necessary to have those experiences?

      • For example, let’s say I’m interested in seeing lots of fish up close (I am!). If I think of seeing lots of fish as intrinsically linked to the activity of scuba diving then I am cutting myself off from the possibility of going to an aquarium or going fishing or watching a documentary. Real-world examples can sometimes be a little murkier than this of course!

  • Needs

    • Are there any accommodations you personally require as a precondition for joining any activity?

      • Accommodations need not be anything “special,” just anything you would want access to as a participant in a given activity.

    • Are there particular activities that you are interested in trying but think you will need additional supports to enjoy?

    • Are there any personal assurances you would want from the people organizing the activity to ensure your experience will be a positive one?

  • Boundaries

    • Are there any things you are absolutely not willing to do, no matter the context or activity?

      • When evaluating an activity, what is the likelihood that you will be confronted with one of these things?

    • In what ways do you prefer to be approached about trying a new activity if at all?

      • Do you feel comfortable establishing this boundary in the context of the activity in question?

    • Do you have any sensory, social, or personal discomforts or pet peeves?

      • How likely is the activity in question to be triggering of a particular discomfort?

      • To what extent are you willing to tolerate some of a given discomfort as long as the activity is worthwhile?

      • If a particular activity does include an uncomfortable sensory or social input, is there any way to opt out of it and still enjoy the activity?

A Big List of Common Activities Enjoyed by Autistic Adults

Of course, a questionnaire is great in theory, but some folks just want some help brainstorming ideas! Below is a list of common activities that you can weigh against some of your answers above or dive right into.

  • Art classes (drawing, painting, pottery)

  • Music classes

  • Dance classes

  • Martial arts classes

  • Educational enrichment classes (at a community center or community college)

  • Gym membership

  • YMCA recreation leagues

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

  • Meet up groups

  • Book clubs

  • Discussion groups

  • Cooking classes

  • Comedy (stand up, improv, sketch, watching or performing)

  • Tabletop gaming groups

  • Video gaming groups

  • Concerts

  • Local art performances

  • Art therapy

  • Music therapy

  • Walking clubs

  • Running clubs

  • Nature clubs

  • Hiking clubs

  • Running official races (5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon)

  • Sports clubs

  • Sport watching clubs

  • Camping

  • Watching movies (at home or in theaters)

  • Movie clubs (watching or discussion or both)

  • Writing (books, articles, stories, graphic novels)

  • Team trivia nights

  • Library events

  • Autism-focused events and meetings

  • Advocacy groups

  • Parks and recreation activities

  • Cross training

  • Weightlifting

  • Legos

  • Puzzles

  • Crafting

  • Baking

Additional Resources


Tips for Parents and Caregivers Supporting Individuals with Significant Communication Needs

For some parents and caregivers collaboration will be a relatively hands-off approach of offering guidance or advice primarily when it’s requested. 


Other parents and caregivers will need to take a more active role to best support the autistic person in their life. 


Parents and caregivers who help the autistic person in their life to navigate personal communication may find themselves asking some fundamental questions:

  • How can I introduce a new activity?

  • How do I know that the autistic person I am supporting actually enjoys this activity and isn’t just trying to make me happy?

  • The autistic person I am supporting tends to “go with the flow” a lot. How do I know if they really want to try an activity again?

The answers to these questions will depend on everyone’s personal situations and might not be immediately apparent when first trying something new. 


It’s OK not to have a perfect answer right away, as long as we work to continue building on our understanding. Here are a few ways you can build on your current communication in the context of trying out new activities:

  • Choose an activity related to the ones you already know they like.

  • Break the new activity into smaller steps and introduce one at a time (the preferred part if possible).

  • Keep an eye out for the nonverbal cues and body language you are already familiar with.

  • Use visual supports, a social narrative, and other supports as needed to introduce the activity and why you think they will like it.

  • Give the new activity time and several to try it out before making a decision about next steps.

    • This is important even when the activity seems to be going well so we don’t get stuck on the track of the activity itself as opposed to what the person we are supporting is saying.

    • The exception to this rule is when the person you are supporting expresses a clear dislike or disapproval of an activity. Do not force people to continue with activities they don’t like!

  • When an activity is going well, don’t be afraid to considering incorporating additional supports or other members of the community if you feel it could add to the overall experience of the activity in question!

We hope this post has sparked some ideas and a sense of direction for folks who came here unsure of where to start and that there are some helpful tips even for those who already have a pretty good idea of what they want to do. 


If you feel like you still have some burning questions that you wish this article answered or you want to share your own insights on this topic we would still love to hear from you at hello@autismgrownup.com


Otherwise we wish you the best of luck on your journey to finding fun and fulfilling new activities!

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