Kids from Scoil Mhuire in Dublin having completed 5k Parkrun
Pictures above from Rainbow Warriors training session
RUNNING FOR AUTISM
We all know running is good for us and have our reasons for doing it.One in forty five children between the ages of 3 and 17 have been diagnosed with Autism somewhere on the spectrum.They suggest that early intervention increases the likelihood of progress.Running may be a good option for these children.
Runner’s High May Overcome Autism Depression
A common symptom kids on the spectrum is depression. Runners know all about this thing called the “runner’s high.” That’s actually the body’s natural response to aerobic exercise. It’s an increase in beta-endorphins in the blood as well as positive effects in the brain’s endocannabinoid system. The good news is that even kids on the autistic spectrum may be able to experience this euphoria. It’s a boundless opportunity for them to escape the plague of depression.
Running May Overcome Social Anxiety
Some kids on the spectrum like mine have a lot of social issues. Runners regularly experience “me” time and use it to all sorts of advantage. Autism can cause such sever social anxiety that kids don’t even want to go outside. “Me” time running may help mitigate this issue. Recreational running is often viewed as a great equalizer. Everyone has their own form, technique, speed, and preferences. Most of us ignore these differences and just enjoy the run for ourselves. That could be a perfect world for the socially anxious kids who just want to be left alone and not noticed. Nobody will stop them or stare at them or ask them why they are different. They won’t get picked on. They can be free to be themselves.
Running May Overcome a Poor Diet
Kids on the autism spectrum are notoriously picky eaters. Texture, taste, and smell senses may be extremely heightened for them. As a result, their diets may be very poor. Runners know they need lots of good fuel to run well. The good news is, some autistic kids are adaptable and can find a way to overcome their food issues. But rather then force them to eat better, take a bunch of the things they do not like and put them into a smoothie.
Running May Overcome Loneliness
If the social issues don’t stop autism spectrum kids from trying to make friends, then running may be a good way to make the effort. kids rarely divulge to their that they are autistic. Nevertheless, they see he is different. But that does not seem to matter too much. It works much better on a team.I coached a group of boys every saturday mornings,during these meets everything was discused from the latest computer games to the next Marvel movie coming out.Out of these discussions we devised a "Movie Night" every two weeks.
Common interests /long term friendships were developed and the kids had a blast.
Running May Overcome Hypersensitivity
Very early in life,a lot of kids do not seem to feel pain. This is a common trait among some kids on the autism spectrum. But if the pain is associated with something external like a little cut or scrape, a meltdown may be on the way. Runners normally live with pains. To a kid on the autism spectrum, these pains may be showstoppers. Others may learn d to run through them. Hyper-focus on running can overrule hypersensitivity. This is good news for parents with children on the autism spectrum. Our kids may be able to learn to adapt. We have to give them those opportunities.
Running May Unlock the Mind and Body
Some kids on the autism spectrum are locked in. This means that they may not be able to verbally communicate. For others it may mean that they are often sedentary. I do not have this experience with my sons. Runners know the freedom of running. They have mantras and other self-motivators to keep moving. Some kids on the autism spectrum know something about mantras. They may exhibit those repetitive behaviors like arm flapping. I know a boy like that. I also know he likes to run. Let him loose! There’s nothing to correct here. Nothing harmful. Only good can come from letting a child run freely. If you didn’t know they were autistic, they would look just like all the other kids running around the playground. They run, wave, cartwheel, sing-song, and play. Let the children play.
Running May Overcome Blockades
For reasons we don’t fully understand, kids on the autism spectrum often exhibit what is often described as stubbornness or willfulness. They see things one way and just won’t budge. While this may often happen with parents, one running coach I know reported great success. For the most part, runners take instruction very well and seek out advice on how to be a better runner. It seems that some kids on the autism spectrum are the same way. Parents – make good friends with those coaches who connect with your kids.
Running May Open Roads
There remains much to explore in the realm of the advantages of running. Much more research is required to help make progress in the understanding of autism. In the meantime, it seems like running may be a great opportunity for some kids on the autism spectrum.
January 02 2016 03:09 PM Victoria White,Irish Independent Newspaper
The Dublin sports club is helping autistic children thrive: 'The Rainbow Warriors make dreams come true'
(FIRST AND ONLY ATHLETICS CLUB IN DUBLIN IRELAND FOR KIDS/TEENS ON THE SPECTRUM)
The Rainbow Warriors athletics club in Dublin 4 is giving my son and other children a real boost.
"If he doesn’t play I’m not playing!”
That’s what athletics coach Colin Donnelly told the other boys before leaving the game and walking home with his autistic brother.
“It was hard, going home together. It was the 1980s and the word ‘autism’ wasn’t bandied about.”
Maybe he’s trying to work it out of his system by starting the first athletics club in Ireland for autistic kids and teens.
The Rainbow Warriors first ran out at Irishtown Stadium in Dublin 4 last October after months of background work and years of dreaming. Now there are about 12 warriors ranging in age from seven to 14 — the oldest, who happens to be my son Tom.
“He’s a flier,” says Colin.
And he is. A year ago he had little interest in physical activity except flapping a belt wrapped around a coat-hanger.
Now he races around the track at Irishtown Stadium.
It’s exhilarating. They’re doing something, at last.
It’s hard too. A boy refuses to get on to the starting line because, as he says, “I want to win. I never win anything”.
Hard to argue with that. While running, hurdling and jumping are great entry points to sport for autistic kids because they are simple, the social end of it can be very difficult for them.
There’s hardly a moment when they’re all succeeding. And then suddenly, magic. A line of children on either side of the track representing a huge assortment of shapes, sizes and levels of ability.
And they’re running a relay race. Every time a child passes a baton and sends another running off with a big grin on his face, the parents cheer.
For just a few moments they are taking part in a social activity and playing by the rules. The hope is that this experience might transfer a bit to the rest of their lives.
Some kids with autism make amazing athletes.
“They’re extremely driven,” says Colin. This fact is beginning to be recognised in the US. Michael Phelps, who won an Olympic gold medal for swimming, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition with many characteristics of autism. Marathon runner Mike Brannigan, who has autism, was brought to a special needs athletics club in Long Island and his parents watched in amazement as he took off like a rocket.
He ran the Marine Corps Marathon and came 22nd out of over 5,000 runners in 2009. He was 12
But winning’s not the issue for most Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) kids.
Most kids with autism have multiple challenges and some are very disabled. For some, a running club is out of the question.
For others, it’s a fun way of working out their issues. We are only at the beginning of research into the impact of exercise on autism. In the US, Achilles International, a foundation dedicated to getting autistic kids into athletics, has just got major funding to carry out extensive research on the results.
Here in Ireland, Colin has started a conversation with researchers at Trinity College about measuring the impact of sport for autistic kids.
Meanwhile, parents are doing their own research and getting incredible results.
“Going to the Rainbow Warriors just means we have a much nicer evening,” says Joyce McDermott, mother of Jack, who is seven. “Jack’s much more likely to relax, listen to a story and go to sleep.”
The opportunity gap between Jack and his brothers was yawning as they play rugby and football. Jack doesn’t understand how to be part of a team but he has an athletic body and Joyce wanted him to make the most of it. He’s food-fussy like most autistic kids and Joyce didn’t want him having a lack of exercise as well as a poor diet.
He also does wall-climbing in UCD with the southside Dublin autistic activities
group Open Spectrum, and Joyce says he’s “like Spiderman.”
It’s frightening to think how many kids with autism and other disabilities aren’t getting the chance to take part in sport.
Colin is adamant that the mainstream sports clubs should cater more for kids with disabilities.
But meanwhile the Rainbow Warrior make dreams come true every Monday night as autistic kids pound around Irishtown Stadium.