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Kinesthetic Awareness and Autism

Many children with autism have difficulty moving freely and engaging in vigorous play. Kinesthetic awareness, or where the body is in relation to space, can be a hindering factor in developing new movement skills. One of my young athletes, Erin, has difficulty jumping forward. Each session looks and sounds something like this:

“Mister Chessman-Chelsen!”

“Hi Erin!”

“What…what…wha we do?!”

“First we’re going to do some warm ups and then we’re going to do some hops”

“No jumping!”

“We’re going to do a few hops.”

Over the course of the school year Erin has improved tremendously in her gross motor abilities, including strength, balance, and spacial awareness.  Still, she has a lot of difficulty with certain movement, jumping being one of them. Part of the issue is the skill/physical deficit, and another is discomfort with leaving the ground to get from Point A to Point B.

It is important to consider these factors when teaching exercise/movement to a person with autism:

– What are the physical abilities?

– Are the directions clear?

– Is there a spacial awareness deficit that requires extra attention?

Spot markers on the floor and holding light objects (2 lb. Sandbells, lightweight balls, bean bags) are two great ways to provide visual supports for young athletes with autism.  “Arms up” may be an abstract concept, but grabbing a ball held above an athlete’s head can provide a crucial cue.

Live Inspired,