On Parents and Expectations…
This is not what you think. It isn’t about parent’s expectations of their children with autism. Instead, I want to focus on what parents should expect from a fitness or movement program for individuals with special needs. I have written and spoken many times about my Two Big Questions for any program:
What do you SAY you do? and What do you ACTUALLY do?
If you claim you are running a “sports program” for teenagers with autism, and the reality is that there are three soccer balls on the floor and six teenagers wandering around and engaging in sterotypy while the program directors follow them saying “Hey, let’s play soccer, Jacob! C’mon, no, not that way, let’s go over here…,” you are NOT running a sports program. You SAY you are, but you’re not.
The same goes for any fitness program or professional that starts off with “I/we have these really cool machines…” I know that neither I nor my close friends and colleagues in the fitness industry did not spend over a decade and tens of thousands of dollars learning and practicing fitness so that we could guide someone over to a machine. It would be both insulting and scary to think that someone who invested that much of their lives to a career in fitness would have to base their practice on some contraption.
If someone is providing a fitness program for your child/adolescent/teen/adult with autism, you should know what questions to ask:
– What is the basis of your program and the theory behind it?
– What activities do you use for strength, stability, and coordination?
– What if my child cannot do the activities you typically use?
– How do you set goals?
The reason that I developed the PAC Profile and the forthcoming Autism Fitness Level I Certification programs is that too often these questions go poorly answered or unanswered entirely. It’s great that someone is willing to work with your child/teen, but does that absolve them from being competent? Those who provide fitness for the special needs population should be the highest-skilled practitioners, not someone who had two special education college courses and knows how to turn on a treadmill and count to fifteen. As the Leading Authority in fitness for the autism population, it is the goal of Autism Fitness to continue educating the special needs community about fitness, and the fitness community about autism.