Individual and group exercise for children with autism
As you’ve seen from the videos I’ve posted, I work with many of my autism athletes 1-to-1. This type of situation allows for maximal concentration on movement patterns, behavior interventions, and developing skills. Obviously 1-to-1 situations are desirable, but they are 1) Not always available and 2) Lack a socialization component.
Obviously there are many considerations when working with a group of children or young adults with autism. We may have a close age range that varies greatly with respect to physical, cognitive, and self-regulatory functioning. This is where the art of coaching becomes pivotal for success.
Some of the most important considerations when developing a fitness program for a group of children with autism include:
– Making sure the activities are appropriate for not only the age, but the 3 categories of functioning
– Using directions that are clear, concise, and can be modeled by the instructor
– Having a series of progressions if the activity is going well and can be made more challenging, and regressions if it is beginning to fall apart
– Using behavior-specific praise to not only reinforce, but shape behaviors
– Choose activities that focus on building the essential movement patterns through play and teamwork
Controlled chaos is the ideal scenario. In my best sessions with groups, I am able to stand back and offer verbal praise while allowing my athletes to play, or, often enough, join in. An active coach makes a great guide.