I honestly do not remember writing the piece, but one of my articles on physical fitness for the autism population has shown up on the Autism Speaks Autism and Healthy Living page.
Autism and Healthy Living
Emerging as an important topic, families are beginning to realize that healthy living is critical to success in other areas of development. Fitness is not just about “sports,” in fact that is a small part of what it means to be physically active. Years ago when I presented at seminars, the first thing I got was “My kid doesn’t like sports…” which was a reflection of a greater problem; we need to redefine the term “athlete” and to provide more play-based activities.
Because information Autism and Healthy Living should be better
One of my fitness heroes, Dan John, wrote an article about how each of his great mentors had 3 rules to live/train by. Below are my 3 rules for Autism and Healthy Living:
1) Teach movement activities that can be used in a large variety of situations
2) Always incorporate behavior-specific encouragement and feedback
3) Be sure what you say you do and what you actually do are the same thing
Autism and healthy living rule # 1 focuses on creating physical fitness programs that make sense for individuals and groups of young people with autism. Swinging a baseball bat or kicking a soccer ball are activities that most of us are familair with, but they do not have much in the way of benefit (physical, adaptive, or cognitive) when compared to more “open-ended,” general, and play-based activities. Autism and healthy living rule # 1 is about selecting the right activities and programming.
Autism and healthy living rule # 2 focuses on inspiration and motivation. Nobody (on the autism spectrum or otherwise) wants to be reminded of what they are bad at. Furthermore, being told that you are doing something “incorrectly” (“Not that way!”) actually increases the liklihood that the learner will fail again.
Autism and healthy living rule # 3 is based on what I see in many programs. Having some bases out, a few balls on the floor and a class of individuals with ASD wandering around does not satisfy the note home that each student “played baseball.” If you added up the actual time each student spent moving beyond wandering, it would equal somewhere around 30-45 seconds per half hour (yes, I’ve timed this on multiple occasions). Autism and healthy living needs to be a bit more dense and dedicated than that.
The Future of Autism and Healthy Living
It is great to see Autism Speaks focusing on this initiative, and this Fall Autism Fitness will release the Autism Fitness Level I Certified Practitioner Program for educators, therapists, and fitness professionals who want to bring autism and healthy living to a whole new level.