Bear walks, and their regression, the bear crawl, can enhance a litany of physical deficits those with autism may have. Crawling patterns initiate shoulder and trunk stability, along with hip mobility. The relationship these skills have with activities of daily living and being pain-free is important to consider. Crawling patterns may seem to reside in the late stages of infancy, but we can use them at any stage of life.
So what do crawling patterns address?
Let’s start with hip mobility. Gait pattern issues are commonplace in the ASD population, and aging out of childhood is not an automatic “fix” for any mobility or motor deficit. Instead, these physical and motor deficits can persist, impeding independence and quality of life into adulthood.
Our initiation to hip mobility starts at a young age, though some individuals with autism may skip the crawling phase, and while this may seem like a monumental graduation, this “skip” leaves out an important stage of physical development. Adding crawling patterns into fitness programs for children, teens, and adults with autism can reestablish some of that lost hip mobility. Key here is performing a PAC Profile Assessment to determine at what level of challenge (bear walk vs. crawl) to begin the exercise.
Trunk stability is perhaps the most discussed physical deficit in the conversation about autism spectrum disorder. The diagnosis of “low tone” is quite often followed by commentary on lack of trunk stability. This deficit is evident during stair climbing, sitting/standing/squatting, and many weight-bearing activities including carrying. In the crawl pattern, we can begin to enhance trunk stability, particularly when the athlete progresses to the bear walk (knees up) stage.
Shoulder stability has a direct relation to both gross and fine motor skills. Going proximal to distal (center of the body outward), shoulder stability is necessary for activities requiring a greater amount of strength and those requiring more dexterity. In the bear crawl, the weight-bearing (no pun intended) role of the shoulder requires stabilization. Properly coached, this aspect of the bear walk or crawl can have net benefit for other upper body activities, whether sitting or standing.
As is one of our feature sayings in Autism Fitness programming, an exercise is only as good as it is being performed, so the decision on whether to start with the bear walk or the crawl is an important one.
Watch the video below highlighting the bear crawl pattern and how we incorporate it into Autism Fitness programming.Autism Fitness Bear Crawls
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