The Magnetic Nature of Movement
This past Sunday my friend and I were playing in a local parking lot. Our activity involved lifting up some 75 and 90 lb. steel blocks by their handles, carrying them about 50 yards, and then picking up some rather hefty medicine balls and throwing them repeatedly to the ground. While these behaviors may initially seem odd, particularly in text form, it was a fun and very challenging exercise session that incorporated many skills that generalize to everyday life. Most importantly, we were enjoying moving around and the challenge of working against gravity.
Later in our session, some older boys along with their parents approached our session and began to push around and attempt to lift the heavy (up to 120 lb.) medicine balls. It renewed my faith in our DNA that despite the current climate of t.v., video games, less recess more sitting, and generally sedentary lifestyles that children still have an overriding natural desire to explore their environment and engage in vigorous play.
For children with autism, it is even more vital to pursue exercise and play as as regularly scheduled. Contrary to their neurotypical peers, many children with autism do not engage in active exploration of their environment or vigorous play. It is the responsibility of parents, family, educators, related service providers, and fitness professionals to guide young individuals with autism towards play. As previously discussed, we use the foundational skills to develop the controlled chaos that is play. With repeated exposure and combined with verbal praise and positive reinforcement, physical activity can become a life skill.
There are an overwhelming amount of extracurricular programs, therapies, and interventions for children with autism. While many have demonstrated efficacy, there will never be a pill, video game, or hyperbaric chamber that replaces discovery of movement. It takes time, effort, involvement, and a passion for sharing health and newfound abilities that last a lifetime.