The Needs-Assessment for Fitness
I just finished a session with Fidele, one of my long-time athletes (here we are pictured below).
I was teaching a new complex:
Single arm press with 6 lb. Sandbell/Hold in two hands/Push Throw
Four or five years ago there was no way he would have stood in place long enough to perform the entire exercise, and even less of a chance of him mastering the skill with efficacy. While teaching the new complex, I started thinking about the order in which we need to teach fitness activities, and most activities, to individuals with autism.
1) Developing tolerance to new situations
We must prepare our students and athletes to learn. That means being able to stand in one place long enough to receive directions.
2) Pairing activities with reinforcement
Fidele enjoys walking around or jumping back and forth, both of which he is invited to do AFTER we complete a specific task
3) Labeling each activity
If my athlete with autism does not already know that “Press up” means that he should raise his arm overhead, it is up to me to teach that contingency. Think of the goal as being able to say something from across the room and have the individual complete it successfully
4) Teaching in steps from single activities to multiple activities
I would not have been able to teach the complex if he had not already mastered the movement involved. Overhead pressing and the push throw with the Sandbell need to be independent skills before we start chaining them together.
5) Reinforce the good, ignore everything else
Suppose while learning the press/push throw complex Fidele messes it up a bunch of times. You don’t really have to suppose, he did. There are PLENTY of ways we can do something incorrectly. Why bother focusing on them? Verbally praise correct efforts and ignore all others. When ability or understanding falters, get in and provide a prompt.
Mastering these skills will lead to a more fun, rewarding fitness experience for both you and your athletes with autism.