WHAT IS FITNESS?
My philosophy is that fitness is the ability to successfully navigate through everyday challenges, from getting dressed to taking out the garbage to playing on the monkey bars. At the foundation of all human performance is fitness. One of the first challenges we face in life is movement against gravity. This involves becoming aware of our bodies and our surroundings.
Individuals on the autism spectrum often have movement deficits that are clearly evident, and many that are less than obvious. Fitness, and well-designed exercise programs, are gateways towards some of the most crucial developmental objectives for young individuals including Self-Esteem, Self-Efficacy, Independence and Socialization. Fitness should ultimately result in a developing an enjoyment of movement and a lifetime of healthy activity.
We want to focus on developing better movements (squatting, pushing, pulling, locomotion, rotation) in a variety of situations and environments.
What’s Your Philosophy?
I will readily admit that even though I put this in the FAQ section, I don’t get asked this question enough. Regarding fitness, I want my athletes to develop strength, stability, and coordination, being able to perform more complex movements over time (think multi-step activities). Most sport- or activity-specific programs take a backwards approach; they try to build specific skills without first setting a foundation. It’s like expecting a branch to grow the trunk of the tree rather than the trunk growing the branch. Building general physical abilities has carryover or “generalization” to other areas of life and activity.
Isn’t Fitness taught in school through sports and Physical Education?
Sometimes. For the past several decades, general fitness has fallen out of most P.E. curriculums in favor of sports-focused activities. Without general fitness programming as a cornerstone, two major problems occur; 1) Children do not develop the basic skills necessary to be successful, or even enjoy, sports and 2) Children who do not naturally gravitate towards a particular sport eventually cease all physical activity. For individuals on the autism spectrum, fitness and exercise are often overlooked as life skills, however there is an abundance of research and clinical evidence supporting the dramatic benefits of implementing fitness programs for special needs populations.
What do children need to be doing?
Jumping, climbing, skipping, pushing, pulling, throwing, catching. Essentially, playing. As a result of the deficits in socialization that individuals with ASD typically exhibit, creative and active play may be a rare, if non-existent activity. Beyond Boundaries develops individualized fitness programs that incorporate a wide array of activities all based in the five essential movement patterns:
– Level Change
What does an Autism Fitness Session Look Like?
At Autism Fitness, a comprehensive assessment, the PAC Profile, created by Founder Eric Chessen is used to determine the physical, adaptive, and cognitive abilities of each athlete. We need to know about these in order to create a program that is appropriate for each individual and will be reinforcing. From there, appropriate exercises, fitness activities, and strategies for teaching can be implemented. Rather than explaining, there are plenty of videos here and on the blog.