The Importance of Family-Centered Fitness
I work with my clients, at most, 3x a week. While this is certainly a great beginning for fitness in the life of a child with autism, a family-centered approach is the most optimal situation. I’ve written a great deal on the importance of healthy practices in the home and how they reflect in the progress of children on the autism spectrum. For example, if object and color identification are learned in the educational environment, but not taught or maintained in the home, the potential for generalization to new situations is diminished. Particularly for young individuals with autism, who have difficulty generalizing a skill to new people, places, or situations, practice in the home is invaluable.
I’ve worked with families who wanted nothing to do with the fitness programs I brought into the home. For them, I was the fitness therapist and only I could integrate the program (despite my showing them evidence to the contrary). My goal, of course, was to teach them how to integrate the exercise programs themselves. Not only would it be a more effective way to make sure physical fitness was maintained (and optimized), but it gives the entire family an activity to perform together. This is a quality of life issue that extends well beyond a couple of squats and throwing a medicine ball around.
I have also worked with, and continue to work with families who begin to adopt a healthier lifestyle and want to develop family-centered fitness programs. Not only does it enhance the abilities and physical health of the child with autism, but family members discover the numerous benefits of leading a more active lifestyle, no gym required. If you have a little bit of space in the home, a park, or a backyard, you have a fitness space that, however small, opens up a new dimension.