Shutting Up; A Key to Coaching Success
A FEW THOUGHTS
"Okay, first we're going to step over the hurdles so you're going to bring your foot up and lift your knee and then do the five steps..."
Let's take the instructions above and simplify them while maintaining effectiveness;
"Do five hurdles"
Yeah. That's it. Along with a demonstration, perhaps with us just stepping over the first and second hurdle, the athlete is receiving all the instruction they need with no extra feed, no static.
Our athletes with autism often have delays or deficits in auditory processing and receptive language. If we provide a barrage of verbal information it may just sit there like a buffet dinner. Plenty of nutrients going undigested.
We want to take a "Tell & Show" approach to coaching exercises, particularly when teaching a new movement or progressing one that has been mastered. As coaches and educators, we often have to resist the urge to "do something," sometimes when the recipe requires fewer ingredients instead of more.
If the goal for our athletes is independent mastery of each exercise, adopting a practice of "just enough but no more" provides the necessary structure for them to progress and us to fade our prompt or cue.
Individual-centered coaching includes accounting for the cognitive abilities of the athlete. A habit of asking "How little information needs to be spoken here?" is a gateway to more productive sessions. Deliver and demonstrate. A secondary but important benefit is the athlete associating the label with the action. This is the contingency between direction and performance that we want to establish.
Verbal direction should focus on labeling the exercise, the number of repetitions, and the contingency;
All the verbal information our athletes need is there.
Coaching direction takes the form of a visual, or, if needed, physical prompt. These should be faded (systematically removed) as the athlete grows more confident with and proficient in the exercise.
Effective coaches and teachers communicate. We enjoy explaining. Effective explaining requires filtering out extraneous information. Direct. Prompt. Succeed.
ALLOWING TRANSITIONS & MORE RANDOM THOUGHTS
It is quite apparent that many individuals with autism and related disorders do not have access to ongoing and appropriate fitness and healthy living programs. It is boggling when I see a fund raising event that promotes some type of physical challenge (mud runs, lifting events) in which sponsored individuals participate on behalf of the autism population, who will likely not have access to any fitness program. The event, the sponsoring? Great. Lovely. But what about...I don't know...actually developing some fitness programs for those on the spectrum? Lightbulb?
Here's a contingency. If an increase in appropriate, effective fitness and nutrition programs for the ASD population is not a foundation of long-term life skill development, we are facing a stupidly high rate of Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other completely preventable medical complications resulting from a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet. Having autism does not exclude someone from these problems. It'd be nice if it did. But it doesn't.
A proactive approach to a healthier lifestyle can serve as a preventative measure from all the crap I cited above. Developing and maintaining individualized fitness programs and healthy nutritional choices should be the foundation for life skill programs starting now, at any age.
I am certainly biased, but I'm also right. A sensible proactive approach to healthy living includes:
- Fitness programming that develops strength, stability, and motor planning
- Increasing independence on specific physical activities
- Access to healthy food choices
We have an opportunity every day to increase health and well-being for the ASD population, a population that is growing into adulthood and deserving of the best possible care and education for an optimal life
A FEW THOUGHTS;
incorporating fitness programming into daily activity for students with autism and related developmental disabilities is vital and allowing educators to understand that fitness was necessary for optimal performance in other areas of ability (educational, vocational, social).
It seems now we are entering a Silver (not quite golden yet) Age of "Getting It," that movement and cognitive and social functioning are not mutually exclusive, but part of a wholistic and practical approach.
Providing effective and appropriate fitness programs for the autism (or any, ANY) population requires adherence to a few fundamental concepts:
1) Begin at the current ability level of the individual.
2) Choose movement activities that can be progressed and regressed easily
3) Provide adequate reinforcement for completion of exercises (access to preferred activities or items, behavior-specific praise)
4) Focus on developing strength, stability, and strength endurance first. All else can follow.
5) Fitness and movement time need not be relegated to a single 30-60 minute period but can and should be broken up into 5-15 minute periods throughout the day
The concepts work. I promise. But they are only as useful as they are regularly used. Health and fitness should be a priority as a life skill for every student on the autism spectrum.
Copyright u-fit 2015
Easy & Healthy Breakfasts on School Days
Balanced breakfasts help improve functionality, energy levels, and concentration. Since most breakfasts are loaded with sugar and lacking in protein, your child may see some drastic results with a better breakfast.
Fruit and veggie smoothies: Quick to drink! Mix with nut or seed butters for protein, Greek yogurt or cottage cheese if tolerated, or even protein powder.
Overnight oats made with uncooked oatmeal, a little bit of milk and yogurt (dairy free, if needed). You can add other ingredients such as chopped or shredded fruits, peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter if nut allergies are present), chia seeds, hemp hearts, and coconut flakes to your overnight oats.
Homemade granola bars can even be made the night before and they can provide enough to last the whole week!
One breakfast recipe I love to make is banana pancakes that are made using one ripe banana and one egg. Two ingredients-that's it! Mash the banana into the bowl then mix in the egg until combined. Heat the pan with a little no stick spray then cook the batter just like you would a regular pancake. I like to eat mine with a little bit of peanut butter spread on top!
Bonus Tip: Mind the juice! Aim for the whole fruit instead, which will prevent drastic spikes in blood sugar. Start by offering less juice and begin to dilute each cup with 1 tablespoon of water gradually each week.
Copyright u-fit 2015
TIP OF THE DAY
One important aspect is to initiate cross body exercises for those with Autism/Aspergers.
By the age of 3 or 4 years old, a child should have mastered the bilateral skill (using both sides of the body together) called “crossing the midline”. This is the ability to move one hand, foot, or eye into the space of the other hand, foot or eye. We cross midline when we scratch an elbow, cross our ankles, and read left to right. Crossing the midline of your body helps build pathways in the brain and is an important prerequisite skill required for the appropriate development of various motor and cognitive skills. Children who have difficultly crossing the body’s midline often have trouble with skills such as reading, writing, completing self care skills and participating in sports & physical activities. These skills require a type of coordination that comes from experience with “cross-lateral motion,” which is movement involving the left arm and right leg, or the right arm and left leg at the same time.
1.) Marching in place with right hand to left knee, left hand right knee.
2.) Cross body calesthenics.
3.) Jumping jacks for upper lower body coordination.
4.) Side to side jumping - feet together and singular.
5.)setting up rings to jump to at various angles.
Benefits - increased attention span, more energy, increased coordination ,and again all gained through physical exertion.
Tue, Apr 21, 2015
By the time Lorraine Doyle’s twin boys were eight years old, she had no problem finding sporting and social after-school activities for one, but not the other.
While Chris could be enrolled in anything that took his fancy, she felt she could not leave his brother, Emmet, who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), at any of these activities without somebody to support him.
It motivated her to set up Gymjam, a weekly club to help children improve social skills through play and games, within HxARTS, an autism resource, therapy and support group in the Harold’s Cross area of Dublin. She is chairwoman of the club, which is aimed at “kids who are able to follow instruction, who want to be social but just need that extra bit [of support]”.
It’s “brilliant”, she says, because children can use it as a stepping stone to a mainstream activity, or come to it from another group, where they may have lost their self-esteem.
Gymjam is just one example of numerous initiatives in a growing, parent-led movement to give children on the autism spectrum some of the same opportunities as their peers to socialise and develop skills through regular activities. Older children with ASD can increasingly become “prisoners in their own home”, as one parent notes, compounding the disadvantages with which they have been born.
Although organisations such as the Special Olympics embrace all intellectual disabilities, it is a very broad grouping and it could be argued that children on the autism spectrum are a distinct segment although, of course, they vary widely in abilities and personal challenges.
Environmental factorsIt is not necessarily a huge task to adapt sporting, entertainment or arts sessions to meet children with ASD on their terms: smaller numbers, greater support and adjustment of environmental factors, such as sound and lights, may be all that’s required, along with understanding among trainers. Clubs and entertainment facilities are beginning to respond to approaches from local autism groups, who themselves have been empowered through social media to mobilise fellow parents and share information.
Terenure College Rugby Club is one that caters for children with special needs through the formation of the Terenure Tigers in January 2014. Every Sunday morning during the club season, boys and girls aged six to 16, who would not be comfortable at mainstream level, are grouped by ability for games of tag rugby.
“A lot of these kids have never had the opportunity to feel rain on their face, running around a pitch; to put a pair of boots on and run around in the muck – things that we take for granted,” says the founder of the Tigers, Bernard Molloy. He became involved in club coaching after his son, who has since been diagnosed with Asperger’s, started playing there from the age of six.
Molloy, who is the club’s disability inclusion officer, now has 55 children registered for the Tigers, with 20 volunteer coaches ranging from company directors to Transition Year students. Deciding that the Tigers deserved only the best when it came to an ambassador, he approached Ireland coach Joe Schmidt who accepted happily and is a regular visitor.
There are four other rugby clubs in the Dublin area with special needs teams, with whom matches can be played. Within the next couple of years, he wants to see every community-based club, be it IRFU, FAI or GAA affiliated, to have a disability inclusion officer.
It is rare for autism and exercise to be paired together, says health and fitness expert Colin Donnelly. Yet studies in the US show increased exercise can have a positive effect on the negative behaviours of children with ASD.
“Issues some kids may have – head nodding, spinning, flapping their hands, staring into space – can have an effect on social behaviour and learning at schools,” he explains. “Through controlled exercise, it can improve their attention span, by focusing on certain things, and discourage these types of behaviour.”
A former accountant, Donnelly decided to start a health and fitness business eight years ago and, latterly, is specialising in training children and teenagers with ASD in general physical exercise through his company, U-Fit.
He had not only grown up with a brother with autism but in recent years discovered his own son had an auditory processing issue and was having problems at school.
“What I found with my own son was that he was quite good at exercise; that, for him, was his outlet.” Donnelly realised this could benefit other children like him.
Mainstream clubsFrom talking to parents, he hears time and time again how they have tried to introduce them to mainstream sports clubs.
“They find, after a month or two, that they are not interested and they are not up to what the coaches might think as ‘scratch’; the kids want to leave, and they are back to square one.”
There are “huge barriers” to children with ASD participating in sport, which would not only benefit their health but also their social life, he points out. They are inclined to become sedentary, playing computer games at home, and health and weight issues become a problem.
“They tend to retreat to their bedrooms because that is their comfort zone and you have to fight to get them out the door.”
Again, with both the Terenure Tigers and U-Fit, the common thread is highly motivated parents with first-hand experience of ASD making a difference – not just for their own children, but for others as well,
“There is so much pro-activity among Irish parents that I think the awareness out there is evolving to acceptance,” says Lorraine Doyle of HxARTS.
“There are so many businesses and community places that really want to do what we are asking for.”
She believes they see it not only as showing corporate responsibility but that it can be viable. The prevalence of diagnosed ASD is growing, with at least an estimated one in 100 children in Ireland affected.
“I am very fond of the term ‘moving from autism awareness to autism acceptance’,” adds Doyle. “It’s not going away; kids are going to become adults.”
Family eventsOn the other side of the country, Kerry Autism Action pays tribute to local businesses that go out of their way to cater for its family events. Its secretary, Hannah Lane, singles out the Crag Caves play area in Castleisland, which allows the group to have closed sessions in the evening time, and the Classic Cinema in Listowel, which helped it set up the first Sensory Friendly Cinema Club in Kerry.
Likewise, every Saturday morning at Jump Zone in Sandyford, Dublin, before it opens to the public, the trampoline park is given over to children on the autism spectrum. The hour-long session is organised by Open Spectrum, a group set up two years ago by two parents solely to run activities.
“What I wanted for kids were activities that would run all the time, not just once-off,” says co-founder Helen Norris. “I found as kids got older with autism, they had less and less to do. Even if they are very high functioning, socially they’re not good. They become prisoners in their own home.”
She had met a fellow parent, Victoria White, at an event run by the Snowflakes autism support group in Swords, Co Dublin, and together they resolved to do something similar in south Dublin.
Their initial open meeting two years ago was attended by five families – now they have 120 on the books and have recently become the activities “strand” of the larger Prism (Parent Resource and Information Support Meeting) group in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area.
From the start, Norris, an occupational therapist, was very keen to organise trampolining and negotiated with Jump Zone for a monthly session that then became a weekly fixture.
“Jumping is something you can do regardless of how low or how high your level of ability is,” she says. “I am more interested in the more challenged children; the ones who need one-to-one. I would like to see them out in the community.”
With numbers kept to about 25, parents are charged €10 a session and the facility covers its costs. Once a term, Jump Zone allows Open Spectrum to keep the takings and they go towards funding other activities. These include weekly Playball (a multisports programme), drama, wall-climbing in UCD and monthly crazy golf at Rainforest in Dundrum.
As numbers have to be kept low, costs can be prohibitive for parents, so Open Spectrum tries to negotiate cut rates and to seek grants. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has funded the Playball, for example.
One of the biggest obstacles to parents bringing children to mainstream activities is that they will do something “really woeful”, suggests Norris, whose 14-year-old daughter, Eleanor, is on the autism spectrum and has many challenges.
“They might hit you, they might have an accident; you just want to die and you don’t want to come out again.”
Children with autism may be cute when they’re little, she adds, “but then they get bigger and they are less cute. I always knew that would be the case.”
Open Spectrum has proved to be a “lifeline” for Suzanne O’Brien, who returned to live in Dublin from the US last August. Her son Colin, for whom she has not yet been able to find a school, has ASD. He is 11.
Not only do Open Spectrum’s wall-climbing and drama provide a much needed social outlet for Colin, but his mother has also found the parents she meets to be a mine of much-needed practical information. Without them, says O’Brien, she would be very frustrated, and she has seen a positive effect on Colin too.
“He begins to see the same people at different things and to become familiar with them. It gets him out there and comfortable in a different environment, which is very important when his schooling is at home."
Published in the Irish Times 21/04/15
by Sheila Wyman
HOW TO HELP OUR KIDS EAT HEALTHIER
HOW TO HELP OUR KIDS EAT HEALTHIER
In reality, a few simple tools combined with a mantra of “variety, moderation, and balance” will provide you with all you need to ensure the long-term nutritional health of your child.
1. Be a good role model.
Most of the parents we know complain that their children refuse to eat healthfully and come to us in search of magic recipes that will put an end to mealtime madness. The real problem most often lies with the parents, not the kids.
2. Take your kids shopping with you.
3. Be flexible!
4. Make mealtime special.
5. Don’t be a short-order cook.
6. Don’t buy into marketing for kids.
7. Don’t use food as rewards, bribes, or punishments.
8. Let kids help in the kitchen.
9. Love and accept your child no matter what!
10. Make sure your child eats breakfast.