Trouble-shooting during Squats
Teaching exercise, or anything for that matter, to the autism population is not always a linear process. It is important to follow certain guidelines, including taking baseline assessments, developing physical skills incrementally, providing behavior-specific praise, and using progressions/regressions. That, being addressed, we have to consider that not every session or day is going to be fantastic. Some days shall suck. Some days will be host to maladaptive behaviors, non-compliance, and the apparent loss of mastered skills.
We ALL have off-days. Sometimes with autism it is just more acute. Instead of saying “I need to be alone,” a non-verbal 15-year old kicks out a window. It is the same idea, in theory, just exhibited with a little more…extreme behavior. With regard to fitness, my athletes have sessions that start out slow, and end with them mastering four new exercises and then performing them in a chain. The next week they may appear to have lost every one of the dozen exercises they mastered, and be more intent on repeatedly *banging their head into a big soft couch cushion than doing any movement activities.
*Yes, this really happened/happens.
When our athletes with autism and other special needs are experiencing an off-day from a cognitive perspective, it is time to Sim-ply-fy. Short, simple directions with less than four words. Physical prompting and/or imitation. Return to the simplest form of that movement. In the video below, the ever-entertaining Fidele has, apparently, lost his ability to squat correctly AND confuses the verbal prompt “squat” with “throw.” How or why this happened is beyond me. Notice how once he errs, I only focus on getting him to succeed. There is no “You’re doing it wrong!” or “Not that way!,” because these are pointless and demeaning. Instead, I focus on his connecting the word “squat” and the action of squatting. As an aside, if you do not find this video even slightly amusing you have no business working with the autism population.