Benefits of Exercise for Individuals with Autism

Benefits of Exercise for Individuals with Autism

Unintentionally, training for special populations has become one of my specialties. I believe everything happens for a reason and am very thankful for the classes I have taken in school that have prepared me to work with some really incredible people. Beginning in high school, I would volunteer at a summer camp for the mentally and physically disabled, and love that I still get to stay in touch with a few of the campers! Once I moved away from home and into a big city, I got so overwhelmed with the hustle of school, work, competing and life in general that I no longer got to volunteer with the special olympics or the summer camp I had grown to love.

Within my degree requirements were several classes covering what it takes to train for varying special populations. One of these classes was focused on training for people with learning disabilities. Not everyone thinks the same, and I have always found this SO refreshing. I love meeting new people, immersing myself in cultures and groups outside of my norm, and educating myself in training for those with disabilities has allowed me to do just that.

The most notable characteristics of autism include an impaired ability to communicate and relate to others socially, a restricted range of activities, and repetitive behaviors such as following very specific routines. While the causes of autism are unknown and preventative measures have yet to be discovered, there does exist effective behavioral therapy that can result in significant improvements for many young children with autism. Most behavioral intervention programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills. However, new research suggests some alternative therapeutic choices that include sports, exercise, and other physical activities can be helpful in supplementing traditional behavioral interventions, leading to an improvement in symptoms, behaviors, and quality of life for individuals with autism.

In America, 16% of children ages 2-19 are overweight, and this percentage is increased to 19% amongst children with ASD, with an additional 36% at risk for being overweight. It has been hypothesized that decreased physical activity is the primary reason for the increased rate of overweight autistic children. Unusual dietary patterns and the use of antipsychotic prescription drugs that can lead weight gain may also contribute. Participation in physical activity may be challenging for individuals with autism because of possible limited motor functioning, low motivation, difficulty in planning, and difficulty in self-awareness. It is best to begin with simple tasks that mildly challenge all the senses, and increase frequency and intensity as improvements are seen and confidence is built.

I have conducted an extensive amount of research to prepare for training children and adolescents with varying levels of autism, and find seeing the improvements in coordination, body awareness, social skills, reaction time and confidence to be extremely rewarding and motivating!


Source: MJ Fitnatic