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Teaching Cues and Prompts for Autism Fitness Programs

This afternoon I was teaching 17-year-old Jerry to perform a deadlift with a kettlebell. He has a tendency to lean forward with his upper body, using the lower back rather than his hips and legs to pull the weight up. Rather than go with “No, not that way” or “Don’t use your back,” I grabbed a wooden dowel and held it slightly in front of Jerry’s chest.

“Chest up. Bend your legs.” With that verbal cue and the presence of the visual one (the dowel), we quickly corrected the movement pattern and Jerry performed five near-perfect deadlifts with the 25lb. kettlebell. The combination of verbal and visual prompts allowed him to self-correct and figure out the movement. Of course, we’re going to continue with this cuing combo until he can master the dealift without them, but that’s fine. It is working and he’s building the skill.

Cues or Prompts are one of the “little big things” that, when incorporated correctly, can speed up skill acquisition and make this fitness stuff actually enjoyable for all parties involved. Do you really want to repeat the same instructions over and over and over and over with no return on the effort? If the verbal cue isn’t working, you have to ask the following:

– Does the learner understand the directions? Can they make a connection between the WORDS and the ACTION?
– Is the learner motivated to perform the activity?
– Does he/she have an auditory processing deficit?
– Are they more of an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner? Everyone is a combination, but most individuals with autism need a very specific visual or physical prompt for exercise and movement activities.

In the Autism Fitness PAC Profile, the Cognitive assessment enables you to figure out what teaching style will work best with each individual. Avoiding the common mistake of “too many words and not enough connections” will save time and tension. Believe me.

Live Inspired,


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