Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
I have two teens sons on the autism spectrum that are not involved or even remotely interested in sports activities. Matthew has had a knack for skipping around the playground since he was in preschool. He even won a race in his early intervention school. Since that time I have said he would be the next Carl Lewis.
Now in the eighth grade Matthew is still running laps around the middle school track and can be seen skipping about. His classrooms have always been very close to the playground or field, which has led to his dashing out the door for a lap over the years. He can easily do six laps. We also take walks around a local Lake.
Nicholas has been participating in Online School for four years now with his Physical Education options ranging from mowing the lawn, taking walks, hiking and playing basketball. During their summer camp years they both participated in bowling and miniature golf field trips. Nicholas also liked one of those rock climbing walls.
For many years we had a small trampoline in the living room, which was replaced with an exercise bike that Nicholas utilizes almost daily. After three years Matthew recently started showing interest in the bike and has sat on it a few times and tried to pedal.
I recently received a copy of 101 Games & Activities for Youth With Autism from the author to share my opinion and insights. Suzanne M. Gray is the CEO and Founder of Right Fit Sport Wellness L.L.C. Right Fit has a program, "Raise the Bar" that is specifically designed for children with autism spectrum disorders. In September of 2010 "Raise the Bar" was awarded the Best of the Best by Club Industry magazine and honored as the "Best Children's Program".
Right Fit facility is a six thousand square foot facility located in Illinois and offers professional training with their main focus in the special needs department on individuals with autism. 101 Games & Activities for Youth With Autism contains four chapters with black and white photographs showing the steps for each activity. Each game/activity includes the number of players needed, with most requiring one or more children, along with the supplies and a description.
Each activity has a catchy name like #12 Donkey Kick, #49 Gladiator, #60 Skelly, #91 Grounder. Chapter 1 covers the Raise the Bar daily exercises - sit up, toe touch, walk the line, leg balance. Chapter 2 is recreation - hoop parade, balloon stay up, scooter moves and swimming arms. Chapter 3 consists of Fine Motor games and movement activities like pinball wizard, go fish cards and sort the sticks. Chapter 4 is team and lifetime sports consisting of track and field, bowling, basketball, hockey, golf, volleyball, baseball, soccer, football and karate.
The introduction includes tips on rewarding performance with praise, free time and food. Also it is mentioned to correct spotting of each activity and to utilize daily recordkeeping. There is a sample chart at the end of each chapter listing the activities and data for reps and score plus the date. At the first page of each chapter is a stick PECS figure to help identify the section.
"It is important to not get too rigid and to keep it fun so the children respond with their best physical and mental efforts. This daily fitness routine is essential to improve the muscular imbalances and muscular compensations, deficient motor skills, motor planning, poor posture, and other fitness pitfalls common in youth with autism. A regular fitness program also decreases the frequency of self-stimulating behaviors, such as body rocking, spinning, hand flapping, gazing and other more aggressive self-injurious behaviors."
My son Matthew was first introduced to the scooter in Occupational Therapy in preschool. He was terrified of it and would never sit on it. I get a daily report sent home from school noting what takes place in Adaptive Physical Education, Art and Speech along with regular classes and food log. Just a few weeks ago it was noted that Matthew sat on the scooter for 45 minutes in PE. He scooted on his back and did the army crawl.
In 101 Games & Activities for Youth With Autism scooter moves shows the child in the sitting position with an adult pulling the scooter using a rope and also with the adult and child using their arms and legs to move the scooter.
Another activity uses a stability ball and is ##28 over the ball. This looks like fun having the child reach over the ball to touch the floor and another one to walk his hands forward. There are suggested verbal cues to assist with the activity. We have a peanut ball that Matthew likes to bounce on. This is located behind a small couch that has a weighted quilt over it, so he is getting deep pressure on his chin while he bounces.
Activity #38 is Ocean Waves and Fish. This is with one of those colorful parachutes that every preschool class seemed to have. #44 is bounce and catch with the child sitting on the stability ball while using an 8-13 inch playground ball. #47 snake awake uses a jump rope, #52 is hopscotch, #53-56 are in the swimming pool. #62 is build a pyramid with the stacking cups. Other activities include bubbles and sticks. Most of the supplies are easy to obtain items.
The sports chapter includes how to grip the hockey swing, a golf swing and a golf putt, how to kick a goal and throw a football. I bought a few soccer balls months ago for Nicholas to use at a sports field, but he was more interested in hiking. Now that we have 101 Games & Activities for Youth With Autism he can learn the proper form for these games and put some into action.
Next week both my sons have spring break so we will be exploring some of these activities outside and inside, dependent on weather. I also plan to share 101 Games & Activities for Youth With Autism with Matthew's school aide and the behavior therapist as we are working on teaching Matthew more activities, so with the help of another adult maybe Matthew will be able to do a sit up.
He was not even tested for the 7th grade physical fitness test and his teacher reports almost daily that Matthew will not play dodge ball at school. We believe he is scared so with our stability ball we can try catch. He has been participating in stretching activities thus far. They do jump rope and hula hoop in Adaptive Physical Education, but Matthew has not engaged in these. This recent year Nicholas took part in the 9th grade physical fitness test. We looked online for proper demonstrations on how to do the trunk lift, push up and sit up.
I plan on bringing 101 Games & Activities for Youth With Autism to Matthew's IEP next month and showing it to his teacher and the Physical Education teacher. This is a resource that would be suitable for all involved with children, youth and adults on the autism spectrum.
With spring break, summer, winter vacations there are many activities that can be done inside and outside to keep the children moving around and not in a sedentary state. This is great for their self image, working on goals and learning about exercise.
You can learn more about Right Fit at their website and view their youtube channel for demonstrations of some activities. Purchase through Healthy Learning