Picking up Heavy Things: Building Strength and Autism
I enjoy lifting heavy things. Partly for fun, partly because it crosses over to my Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practice, and partly because it makes me feel good. In addition to generalization to athletic activities, developing strength is important for success in daily life. Being able to lift a heavy object with proper technique helps with both self-esteem and injury prevention.
One of my Middle school classes this past school year constantly requested to play with “Mr. Peanut.” Mr. Peanut was a creation of mine, an inflatable stability ball (oval shaped), filled with water. Mr. Peanut weighed in at a whopping 30+ pounds of sloshy fun.
My class, all kids with autism, loved to carry Mr. Peanut with a partner across the room where they would hand him off to the next pair of classmates. Strength, meet socialization. Add to that the fact that Mr. Peanut cost me about $12 total.
The technical side of developing strength in children with autism is to create a foundation of good movement first. It is amazing how many parents are afraid to have their child go near a weight, but will hand them a backpack that weighs half as much as the child. Backpacks, by the way, are terrible on the lower back, and the compensatory posture that kids take when wearing them is nails on a chalkboard to exercise specialists, OTs, and PTs.
One of the most consistent pieces of feedback I receive is how strong my athletes with autism get. Of course, strength is not my only goal or even the most immediate one in most cases, but part of a holistic approach to physical wellness. Of course, my athletes need to be strong. They have plenty of living and success ahead of them.