My son, being an unschooler for a little over six months, is very much out of shape. Oh, I know the reason. He spends the better part of his day programming video games (not playing them – WRITING them!). Because of his obsession and brilliance, he currently isn’t interested in joining the rest of the world.
Without turning this into an unschooling article, there is a certain degree of “deschooling” a child will go through when first realizing they are not being forced to memorize things they have no interest in. Picture having been restricted from a certain food group for years and years and suddenly you are told you can eat whatever you want WHENEVER you want – what do you think you would do? Eat all your favorite foods to excess, most likely! Then your body would realize it could have them at any time, and the pendulum would start forming a natural balance – you would find a nice rhythm to your eating. By the way, your body is way smarter than your fad diet, but that’s a post for another day!
Here’s the missing key in my house right now: my son will spend hours programming games and then get these uncontrollable bursts of energy that have no choice but to be released in the fastest and loudest way possible. He usually shapeshifts into a whirling dervish and runs the length of the house several times, screaming and hitting everything in his path. Not angrily, just energetically
Sure, his body is taking care of the regulation of this energy, but not in a productive way. Typically this will result in dogs or sister lashing out at him for inappropriate agitation, followed by the lowering of his self-esteem because he doesn’t understand what everyone’s so upset about.
Having done a successful Fitness 4 Autism program with him in the past, I am kind of ashamed that I let things go this direction for so long. At times I switch into survival mode, when I am balancing a ridiculous amount of things on my oversized, superwoman plate. But that’s okay, all we have is the now and here’s what I’m committing to:
Short chunks of regular movement breaks. One of my greatest motivation tools for Justin is a timer. Whenever he is resistant to any activity (tooth brushing, taking out the trash) I turn it around and make it a game. I tell him he’s not faster than me, and we have a friendly race doing whatever it is that needs to be done. So we will set a timer and perform animal crawls, star jumps, and similar short bursts of full body movements. Functional exercises for short periods of time are great for everyone, not just children on the Autism Spectrum!
Family field day. Sandbell tossing, hurdles, jumps, even sack races… there is nothing wrong with a little family competition! We’ll even get the dogs involved (Malamutes LOVE to pull things!). I am making the ribbons tomorrow – very excited!
Replace the mini trampoline. It’s been a while since our old one broke. Why have I never replaced it? This is a good object to always have available to alleviate any short bursts that come unexpectedly.
Weekly yoga. There are so many benefits to practicing yoga, especially for Autism. We both loved doing this in the past – once again it’s funny how bad habits seem to have much easier “sticking” power than things that are good for us!
Exploring new parks. We are very fortunate to live in a county that has over 120 parks and recreation centers. Why are we sitting at home? Time to say no to some of those freelance clients that need things yesterday, turn off Law & Order (love me some Vincent D’Onofrio!), put the iPhone on airplane mode and go PLAY. We can even make a park rating document and map – why not turn it into “research”?
How does regular movement really help?
It’s been proven that children (and adults!) perform better after they’ve moved around. Regular physical activity helps your child:
- Maintain focus for longer periods
- Feel better about himself and his abilities
- Put multiple commands together with cues
- Confidently participate in new things
- Get in better shape
Fitness boosts confidence, independence, and self-esteem, plus it teaches goal setting. Speech targets, communication, and behavioral targets can also be incorporated into your daily movement breaks. Remember, no expensive, large equipment is needed!
This is my Spring commitment to my children and myself. I set an example daily with the intense early morning workouts I do at home; however they never see me simply moving for fun, other than walking the dogs.
Join me in this Spring movement… “movement”. Remember, sharing this goal with your child will benefit the entire family – it sets everyone up for long-term health and fitness. Tell me how you plan to move more with your child by commenting below or sharing it on the SOA Facebook page! I love fresh ideas!