Intention and Ability
All of the autism programs I have consulted with in the last few years have the same thing in common; they have the best intentions for developing adaptive physical education programs. They typically work from a conception of fitness/PE that includes team sports and machine-based fitness. I’ve written and spoken (shouted, more accurately) about the limitations of both sports and machine or apparatus-based fitness for the autism population going on quite a few years now.
While the programs have their student’s best interest in mind, the actual ability of the program to develop physical skills and motivation to engage in exercise and play is usually minimal. There are two main factors and an X factor at work here:
1) Educators and Behavior therapists do not have much training and/or experience with fitness modalities
2) The most common general PE and fitness modalities (sports, treadmills, exercise machines) do not develop the foundations of fitness and play
X-Factor: The Current state of Adaptive Physical Education. I have no idea what goes on here. As with many other fields, practitioner ability varies greatly, but I cannot fathom a 4-year program that relies on teaching people how to serve up watered-down sports to a group of children with special needs.
This all comes back, as usual, to my favorite question combo:
What do you SAY you do? vs. What do you ACTUALLY do?
Intent is fine, it is the motivation, but there is something to be said for getting young people with autism to move well and enjoy doing it.
In several weeks Autism Fitness will be releasing the PAC Profile Assessment Program. I have spent several years developing, modifying, and teaching the methodology behind my program. The PAC Profile is Autism Fitness in a box. It enables parents, educators, fitness professionals, and therapists to incorporate fitness programs for any individual on the spectrum. I am releasing the PAC Profile because I want every person with autism to have access to a great fitness program, no matter where they are. The goal is to do what we say we do, and do it with extraordinary success.