Physical Fitness

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.

Kids from Autism Fitness working with Eric Chessen on other basic exercises.

September 2011 Achilles Kids Athlete of the Month - KE Plunkett.

June 2011 Achilles Kids School & Teacher of the Month: Meeting Street Schoo.

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

Autism Speaks Community Grant Recipients

SNACK & Friends, Inc.
Special Needs Activity Center for Kids
Expansion of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Professional Support for SNACK Year-Round Socialization and Recreation Programs
This grant increased the on-site hours of ABA trained professionals to manage behavior plans; provide training to SNACK staff, offer support to families and interact with the children's schools.

Achilles International
Achilles Kids Virtual Marathon
Achilles Kids is a running, walking, and rolling program for low income children with disabilities. Achilles provides 4,000 children in 150 New York City public schools with an adaptive physical education curriculum and holds weekend workouts for children with disabilities and their able bodied siblings. Achilles Kids provides opportunities for children to play, improve their health and fitness, increase their confidence, and socialize with their peers.

Click here to read more about recipients of Autism Speaks Family Services Community Grants.

Spotlight on Fitness Programs

PowerWorks
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.

Checklist to Assist Individuals with ASDs or Caregivers in the Selection of Fitness, Leisure, Recreation and Programs

Eric Chessen’s Autism Fitness

Fitting Fitness into the ASD Household

More Fitness Resources

Sports, Exercise, and the Benefits of Physical Activity for Individuals with Autism

Livestrong Autism Exercise Programs

Exercise Connection

Right Fit

The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability

Positive Impacts of Exercise for Children with Autism

University of Massachusetts Fit and Fun

Physical Exercise and Autism

Autism and Exercise

Effects of Exercise Interventions on Stereotypic Behaviours in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

For Coaches and Professionals

USTA Learn to Rally and Play: Practice Plans and Tips for Coaching Kids Ages 5-17

USTA: A Whole New Ballgame

Tips for Working with Participants with Autism

Instructional Arrangements and Strategies for People with Autism

Social Stories for Snow-Related Activities

Autism Spectrum Disorder Cheat Sheet

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