Here are some practical tips for encouraging regular physical activity:
Start smallThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get at least an hour of physical activity daily. That’s good to know, but I suggest starting with a more modest goal and building from there.
We’ve found that shorter periods of physical activity, spaced throughout the day, tend to be easier to maintain. Remember: The goal is to make physical activity a regular and enjoyable part of daily life. So, be patient and think long term.
Here are some ways to add physical activity into a daily routine:
Build motor skills.Keep in mind that your child will need to build some fundamental motor skills to successfully participate in physical activities and sports. You can make this skill-building enjoyable by playing games that encourage your child to:
Sample different types of physical activityOur analysis identified a wide range of activities that can deliver benefits. From table-tennis to swimming, from riding bikes to riding horses, there’s an abundance of physical activities that you or your child can try. I suggest sampling from the menu.
Ideally, include one or more activities that encourage:
Be a role model and enlist friends and familyAs a parent, you are the most important role model for your child. I encourage you to model an active lifestyle for your child. Show them the enjoyment and value you gain from being active.
Next, consider the many people who interact with your child on a daily or weekly basis and how might you enlist them to encourage your child’s physical activity.
Teachers, especially physical education teachers, can be a great influence. Share your aspirations and strategies for your child. If your child has an Education Plan (IEP), be sure to include physical education goals in your EP .
Also consider contacting the people who run recreational sports programs in your community. Some may worry that they lack the skills to engage and include someone with autism in their programs. You may be able to give them the confidence they need by sharing your strategies for communicating, motivating, and instructing your child.
Tips for making physical activities autism friendlyHere are three practical strategies commonly used in activity programs designed for youth who have autism:
SHUTTING UP: A COACHES GUIDE TO 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