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Teaching new movements to young individuals with autism

Teaching complex movements to children and young individuals with autism can be equal parts frustration and challenge.  The reasons I rely on ABA methods for teaching movement are several:

– Small incremental steps learned in sequence

– Higher percentage of correct responses

– Continuing to provide verbal praise and self-esteem while trying a new activity that he/she may not be great at

– Quicker mastery of the movement pattern, on to even more fun and complex exercises

– Faster generalization

In the video below I am working with one of my athletes on a scoop throw. This is a great exercise the incorporates hip flexibility (often an area of deficit for children with autism), coordination, grip strength (fine motor, anyone?!), and trunk stability. Plus there are some NIFTY games we can create by learning to throw from different angles and position.

Untitled from Eric Chessen on Vimeo.

In the video I am prompting my athlete through the scoop throw, and then fading the physical prompt to allow him to discover the movement on his own. Once the basic or rote skill is developed, a parent or instructor can “shape” the movement, creating a less awkward or halting movement pattern. Fluidity of motion is one of those “know-it-when-you-see-it” phenomenons, however it all comes down to shaping. For children with autism, developing the ability to transition from running to skipping to climbing, or any other combination of movement, is one big step.

Live Inspired,