My first gym class of the morning in the camp program can be described, in great understatement, as variable. There are four children of different ages with skill sets that fall into separate ranges across the autism spectrum. Of course, socialization is an important area of development and can certainly be gained through exercise and an active lifestyle, however the immediate goals for all of these kids are attending and tolerance to new demands/situations.
To achieve this, I break the group up and have each participant work on a different activity. They may be working on the same movement pattern, though in a different form (crawling and banding to perform a scoop throw both require hip flexibility). If I attempted to get all of the campers to do the same activity at once, the process would fail them miserably. They do not yet have the prerequisite skills for many physical activities.
So, what do we do first? Develop tolerance and resilience. Standing in place for three seconds is difficult for many children with whom I have worked. But we have to start there in order to be able to follow directions and build more healthy movement abilities. I cannot stress how important resilience is as a life skill for ALL children, particularly those on the autism spectrum. Actually, I could stress it, but I’d rather you watch the TED video below. It will hold your attention much better.