Have to vs. Want to and the Hazy In-between
Most of my athletes on the autism spectrum, if left to their own devices, will engage in some type of stereotypical, repetitive behavior. From wandering, to tapping objects, to wrapping string around their fingers. Clearly these behaviors serve a purpose, but they are not exactly the most stellar use of time. There are those moments when you learn so much about human nature from those with autism. These aren’t them.
Motivation, or Adaptive functioning is an observable quality that can be improved with the appropriate methods, some time, patience, and occasional creativity. It may seem paradoxical that my first rule is “You can’t force fun” and my primary goal is to get individuals on the autism spectrum to be physically active in new ways, something they, in my experience, do not enjoy. Planning must be made to introduce the new tasks without making them utterly hate-able. This is not always a direct shot, bot a careful, mostly choreographed dance between instruction and autonomy, structure and chaos.
At some point it is probably going to suck. Sometimes life does suck for both the neurotypical and the ASD among us. Planet Earth and our human society tends to carry those features. The remarkable thing is that things that “suck” can indeed become enjoyable or preferred, at least tolerated, over time.
The second point here is that we all need to learn and grow and try new things during the course of our lifetime, particularly if those things are going to be beneficial (physical fitness). If it takes extra time, effort, and planning to provide a fitness program for inactive 14-year-old with ASD…so what? Not initiating because the payoff in the short term is relatively small is not a good or logical excuse. Sometimes, actually oftentimes, my athletes do not want to participate in a session. Activities can be modified, lengths of time lessened, but there is still an expectation that they will do what is expected of them. It is expected because I know, after a certain passing of time, the capabilities of my athletes. I have respect for them, which is why I expect them to live up to their abilities. Not at total and complete 100% every day, but showing improvement over time.