October 25, 2008

Autism + Exercise = Higher Functioning Children?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I know the importance of exercise.  I also know that it should be part of our daily lives.  But why is it so important for a child with autism to exercise?

According to Daniel Hawthorne,

… it is my heart-felt conviction that physical activity of some kind is vital to helping autistic children, like me at one time, function.

By observation in my own life, I have long felt strongly that aerobic exercise of any kind played a valuable role in my being able to function on a relatively high level as an autistic child and now as well.

That’s just great because my son thinks he’s royalty.  The only “exercise” I can get him to participate in is gentle yoga, and this man just mentioned “aerobics”?!?

My son will be the first one to tell you it’s “too hot” after only a few minutes of running.  How in the world am I supposed to get him to do any more than that?

He is on a special needs soccer team,and his coach is really laid back.  I’m mean so laid back our games and practices always start later than the other teams. And I’m lucky that Nicholas is on a team where his teammates don’t run around kicking the stuff out of each other while giving the evil eye if anyone takes the ball away.

So, other than being part of a laid back soccer team, I’m not quite sure what else I can get him to do.

Forced exercise is no way to get someone motivated, this much I know, but if people are talking about increased functionality, I need to get poppin’.

What do researchers say?

Antecedent exercise, in which an individual exercises on a regular schedule, may reduce aggression or repetitive behaviors for some individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Celiberti, Bobo, Kelly, Harris, & Handleman, 1997; Rosenthal-Malek & Mitchell, 1997). Some studies suggest that simply placing children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in settings with typical peers, without any other intervention, may increase their social interactions (Lord & Hopkins, 1986) and reduce their repetitive behaviors (McGee, Paradis, & Feldman, 1993)

So, I ask again, how can I motivate him to exercise without having to roll out the red carpet, fan him down when he’s hot, and hand-feed him grapes?

Luke took the hover back, so jetting down the Information Superhighway isn’t going to be as much fun tonight as it was the past couple of nights.  I just hope I don’t break anything while trying to figure out how to work this darn pogo stick.  {sigh}

After several missteps, I finally made it to a site that offered some pretty good reasons why a parent should implement an autism and exercise program for their child(ren).

Once you introduce your child to the autism and exercise program, they usually love it and want to continue it! You will see that neurological connections are strengthened leading to better trunk stability, balance and coordination. They will gain confidence and self-esteem.

Individuals with autism will have more difficulty with team sports than with individual activities. Understanding strategy, coordinating muscle groups, and visually tracking is difficult enough. Adding the social and communication factors may overwhelm your child.

However, team sports can also be a positive learning experience for everyone if awareness of the disability is understood by all.

With that said, I wanted to know what more I could do.

Horseback riding lessons starting November 8? 

Weekly jaunts to open bounce at Bounce U (until he turns 8)? 

Hmmm, still seems like I could be doing more.

I was wondering what knick-knacks I could use at home/indoors.

Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to having to jump back on that pogo stick, but jump on it I did.

Came across this little gizmo called the Woggler.  Seems interesting but it’s pricey.  So for now, I’ll go directly to jail and not pass go.

I could buy this gadget, but little man would probably bounce on it all day, every day until he finally bounced himself to the moon.

So, I guess my only option is to keep bouncin’ along until something deems itself worthy of his royal hiney’s attention as well as deeming itself worthy of me spending any precious dollars on.

Man, are my legs getting tired!

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