This is the second in a series about archery on the Autism Spectrum. Did you miss the first post? Check it out here.
Charles D. Seals is a staff shooter for 60X Custom Strings and is passionate about archery and autism awareness. He suffers from level 1 autism spectrum disorder and uses his struggles with autism to improve his archery game.
Archers with Autism Spectrum Disorder
On the tournament trail we meet archers from all walks of life with different personalities and backgrounds. When paired with an archer with autism spectrum disorder, you may see archery in an entirely different way. They may unknowingly help your own game improve if you pay attention. By watching them break down their own shot process step by step, you may find the missing piece in your own process.
Tips for Shooting with an Archer with ASD
Patience and understanding are very important as to not disturb archers with ASD concentration, and lead to their unnecessary anxiety. People with ASD see the world in a much different way. They may visualize the entire task beforehand and see it from beginning to end in their mind before starting it. This may either help the ASD archer or hinder them.
Autism Spectrum Disorder – 3 Levels
There are 3 levels to autism spectrum disorder, all needing different levels of support and/or consideration.
- Level 1. Level 1 is the mildest form of ASD. Archers with level 1 ASD need little to no support. They may have difficulty communicating appropriately; they may say the wrong things at the wrong time. They may also misread certain body language.
- Level 2. Archers with Level 2 ASD may find it difficult to move from one task to another and may be easily distracted. Their problems may be more obvious and they may have a hard time verbally and socially communicating.
- Level 3 is the most severe form of ASD. Archers with level 3 ASD may be completely nonverbal and may have difficulty communicating all together. They may also inflict self-harm, such as hitting themselves, usually on the head, when overwhelmed with anxiety.
Structure is Important
The ASD Archer will do their very best to adhere to the rules of the game, as structure is very important to them. Deviation from the posted rules may cause confusion and or frustration, as they compete or train. The structure of their training will stay ingrained in their minds, even during competition. The shot process plays like a mantra in their heads, applying everything they’ve learned while adapting to an ever-changing environment. They concentrate on not only their shots but also the shots of their fellow competitors, taking in every detail. This does not change even when the game changes, no matter if 3D, field, indoor or outdoor, or whichever organization is in play.
Verbal and Non-verbal Communication
The conversations may start off slow until a certain comfort level is obtained. Then you may notice the ASD archer is very blunt and to the point. Be careful when asking for advice or criticism, as you may get more than expected. Depending on their level on the spectrum, they may not speak at all. Their behavior may seem repetitive, as most people on the spectrum have obsessive-compulsive disorder of various types. As the arrows are fired the process stays constant. The conversations will most likely remain focused and technical, if they speak at all. Do not take offense if they refuse to speak or add to the conversation, as this may be part of the disorder.
Motivate the Archer with ASD
If everything is going as planned and remaining smooth and calm, the ASD archer’s mood reflects that. When chaos ensues and problems arise, the ASD archer may desire to quit. The reason for this is usually overthinking. When overthinking sets in, the odds are played out in the mind in detail. To them, it will seem pointless to keep going if the loss is inevitable or any equipment issues arise, no matter how trivial. When this happens, it may help to encourage them to continue to move forward. You should encourage the archer with ASD to assess the issue then finish the tournament, rather than quitting.
Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder may experience stress and anxiety due to the number of people in attendance, or the size of the venue itself. This social anxiety can trigger a feeling of claustrophobia until the crowd disperses to assigned targets. This causes the need to be on the edge of the crowd rather than up front or in the center. Another form of anxiety may result in target panic. If the pressure exceeds limits, the shot could be rushed. This can be caused by a change in the environment or a change in the dynamic of the group. Those with autism spectrum disorder are very sensitive to sounds and sometimes the body language of others.
Analyzing the Event
When the tournament is over and the chips have fallen where they may, the ASD archer replays the event in their minds. They play out every shot and scenario. They visualize every aspect of the mechanics of the equipment. They visualize the entire day step by step, even if it went perfectly.
Working with an Archer on the Autism Spectrum
Understanding the archer with an autism spectrum disorder may not be an easy task. Learning from them can benefit you in positive ways. If you ever get the opportunity to shoot with and archer with an autism spectrum disorder, you may finally find that one flaw you’ve been looking for in your own game. Always remember to look, listen, and above all, don’t be judgmental.
This is the second in a series titled Archery on the Autism Spectrum. Check out part 1: Tips for the Archer with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
About the author, Charles D. Seals
My archery passion began when I found a picture of my dad holding his recurve bow and a ribbon he’d won in a competition. I began sneaking my brother’s bow while he was at work and from the first arrow I was hooked. I was gifted my first recurve bow from my aunt when I was 8 years old my dad coached me on proper shooting discipline. My dad gave me my first compound during the Christmas of 1990, which prompted my transition to compound.
I currently compete in the ASA as a semi pro in the known 50 class concentrating on Texas state level competition. I have competed in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas winning various awards in indoor and 3D.
I have assisted as a coach and consultant in the local 4H archery program. I currently provide private coaching to help youth archers achieve their goals in archery and receiving college scholarships.
I was diagnosed late in life with level 1 autism. I’ve always seen the world differently and didn’t know why, needed answers. Through extensive research and therapy, I was diagnosed at the age of 39. From that day forward I have made it my mission to spread autism awareness through my archery passion.