I don’t know about you, but for the past four years I’ve been trying to get my child involved in an extra-curricular activity, achieving less than stellar results. At age four, even before an Autism diagnosis, I knew he had an extraordinary amount of energy to burn and his sister was in Karate. It made sense to me to get him started in the youngest group. I thought it would teach him focus and give him an outlet for some of that energy. HA! Nice try, Mom. He was kicked out in the first two minutes of his first class, and asked never to return even as a spectator for his older sis. OY!
Since then, we’ve tried some easy sports, Cub Scouts, even a cooking class (an energetic child on the Autism spectrum with sharp objects… what was I thinking?!?!). It all boils down to the same issues: lack of coordination, lack of focus, too much energy, inability to be patient and wait his turn, unable to understand what is expected of him, sensory overload, gross motor deficits, and just plain behavior issues sometimes.
I’ve always made allowances (and excuses) for why we can’t participate in the same things as some of his neurotypical friends do. But now he’s 8 and he still can’t ride a bike. We will be trying piano lessons (a natural gift for him), but that still doesn’t solve any of the above named issues.
You ask, “Don’t they get fitness in gym class?” Not really. In fact, many schools have even CUT physical education from their curriculum due to budget cuts and increased focus on test scores! And sports (as I’ve experienced) are really hard to participate in when you can’t master basic, foundational moves or stay on task long enough to understand what to do.
Using my background of Autism Research and Fitness along with the mentorship of Eric Chessen (Autism Fitness), I adapted and developed a fun and effective way to help my child’s long-term skills in fitness and movement. The right fitness movements have an amazing ripple effect on the whole family. Here are some things that have improved in my child already, and will continue to do so as I work with him further:
Self-esteem and confidence. He sees himself being successful at the movements and courses we set up and it makes him want to try new things. He knows it’s a safe place to not quite get it right.
Coordination. His balance and posture have improved greatly since we started. He used to actually lean to one side and not be able to even stand on one foot! Now look at him go!
Sensory issues. His favorite fitness moves offer a wonderful sensory break from an overload or meltdown. The best part? Most of them can be done in a small space using just his body weight!
Attending. He can now stay focused longer when asked to do something, including waiting his turn! He’s far from perfect, but my motto is progress not perfection.
Goal setting. He finally understands the process of being unable to complete something and how practice leads to the mastering of a skill. This is huge!
Independence. He now takes pride in setting up his own mini obstacle course for us to do together. He can even create one for his peers to try!
Overall health and fitness level. Face it, getting up and moving is good for the whole family, even if you can just do a little bit! Turn off the TV, hide the DSi, take the batteries out of the Wii remote, and go outside and PLAY