Consistency in expectation is a key component of Autism Fitness programming. My athletes know what to expect from me, and I know what they are capable of doing. This is not an immediate situation, but one that develops through building a rapport with an individual. It begins with a basic equation common to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA):
Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence (ABC)
What comes first? What is the reaction? What is the consequence of that reaction?
In the context of fitness activities, I ask my athlete to perform a med ball push throw, he does successfully, and earns some break time. While the expectation becomes greater over time (more push throws, push throws + another activity), the sequence remains; The request, the performance, the reinforcement.
Proactivity is damn better than reacttivity when teaching movement stuff. Rather than correct a movement that is too difficult for an athlete to perform, start off simpler. This is where the concept of regression becomes invaluable. With movement andgeneral learning, we are all human beings on different points of the same continuum. We meet our athletes at their current level of ability and progress from that point. Yes, it takes time, and no, it is not always a directly linear process.
Having consistent expectations can help in alleviating anxiety, something quite common to those with autism. Removing the element of uncertainty can have a calming effect. Many individuals with ASD are comfortable, sometimes to a detrimental degree, with repetition and sameness. Introducing new activities can be overwhelming if there is too much too soon. If the goal is to make fitness and active play reinforcing/fun, you have to take your time with establishing first a positive relationship, and second, making sure that you are consistent in your expectations for physical performance. Yes, day-to-day abilities will vary slightly, but understanding what an athlete can and cannot do (yet) on a regular basis will allow a coach/instructor to plan successful programs.
Respect is a word that is tossed around with relation to special needs populations. From my perspective, to respect an individual is to provide appropriate instruction, and make sure that they accomplish something prior to accessing rewards, as the rest of us have to do in society. Developing skills, mastering challenges, and overcoming deficits is not a passive endeavor.