Introduction: Jackie Ceonzo, Executive Director and Founder, SNACK & Friends, Inc (Special Needs Activity Center for Kids)
Children on the spectrum are still kids. They can play, run, swim, shoot baskets, kick a soccer ball, and play catch, just like their typical counterparts. They just need to be taught in an adapted fashion. Like most lessons taught to individuals on the spectrum, if you break them down, these lessons can be learned. For example, in teaching baseball, start with teaching them to run from home plate to first base. The bases can serve as visual cues. Maybe add some arrows to point out the right direction to move around the bases. A sticker, a high five, or other reinforcers may be needed at the end of a successful run. For parents and caregivers, there is no greater feeling than taking your child to do something a “typical” kid would do. We all would prefer to say we are going to kick a ball or heading out for a run rather than say we are going to therapy!! While therapy is very important, do not forget to schedule in the fitness piece. Exercise is important for the wellbeing of all people, regardless of age or ability.
Once again, we all need to remember that these kids are still kids. I can remember when I realized we had a little boy, a son, not just a disabled child with autism and a seizure disorder. When I had my second son, it became so apparent what my older boy was missing in his life: sports, swimming and other forms of exercise. Having my younger “neurotypical” boy involved in all kinds of activities, it became apparent that he may not need all of the structure, but his brother sure did!!
Be reasonable in your expectations. On day one, try to run a short distance once or twice and call it a day. End on a high note – short, sweet, successful. Our son has gone from choking in the water to swimming, from ignoring the basketball to making free throws, from sitting home stimming to community walking and learning streets signs.
It can be done!
Fitness Videos: Check out some exercises you can try!
Kids participating in SNACK & Friends, Special Needs Activity Center for Kids.
Kids from Autism Fitness working with Eric Chessen on basic exercises.
Children in the Achilles weekend program working out with a volunteer.
From the Autism Speaks Science Team
Sports, Exercise, and the Benefits of Physical Activity for Individuals with Autism
by Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer, Autism Speaks and
Michael Rosanoff, MPH, Assistant Director of Research and Public Health, Autism Speaks
Spotlight on Fitness Programs
This pilot program was a partnership between the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) and the YMCA as part of their CommunityWorks partnership. The summer program at the Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA in Phoenix, AZ paired teens who have autism with typical peers who were able to mentor and help their partners navigage through everything from fitness activities to the appropriate use of a locker room.
Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation F.I.T. Together at the Ridgewood YMCA
Fitness Independence Training (F.I.T) is a small group step aerobics exercise class at the YMCA in Ridgewood, NJ specifically designed to improve the fitness, coordination, socialization, self-confidence and independence of young adults aged 16-30 affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Volunteer peer mentors will support and encourage participants.
Fitness Resources of the Month
Helping Hands Art Special Needs Exercise DVD
A unique new exercise video created specifically for people with autism and other developmental disabilities. Easy to follow repetitive moves with upbeat music. For all abilities and ages. Click here to view the trailer!
At-Home Fitness Tips for Children with Autism
Suzanne M Gray, a fitness expert, has created exercise programs specifically for individuals with autism.
More Fitness Resources
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