Getting plenty of exercise is extremely important for anyone, but if you are on the Autistic Spectrum getting a good amount of exercise can be very difficult, but the benefits are huge.
The number one importance for encouraging people on the autism spectrum is to make the exercise fun.
For people without autism, going to the gym or doing exercise is usually motivated by the knowledge that we will lose weight and that it is good for your health, persuading people with autism of this will usually take more than a few words. It is usually harder for e with autism to understand the concept. People on the autistic spectrum tend to take things very literally and they need a concrete reason to do something or to want to do something – rather than an abstract idea such as it being ‘good for you’.
Autistic people will have some things they really enjoy doing, so it is good to find their interests and trying to tie exercise in with this. If this is difficult or it is hard to figure out what their real motivations are, exercise such as swimming or trampolining can be a good sensory experience that they can enjoy.
Swimming uses one side of the body, then the other can be organising and therefore calming to them. The sense of being surrounded by water also takes the pressure off the body and can be very relaxing – just like being in the womb.
Being on a trampoline can help to release lots of endorphins as it is very energetic. People on the autistic spectrum can be predisposed to depression, so releasing endorphins through exercise can promote a feeling of wellbeing and relieve stress. Most people on the spectrum will be able to bounce and the feeling of weightlessness in between bounces can be very rewarding. Safety is obviously a huge concern for any parent or carer – especially if the person in question has special needs. This is usually because the balance and coordination is not always as good as someone without.
The bigger the trampoline, the safer it will be. There are many different types but selecting one with a safety enclosure is a must – even if your children don’t have autism it is recommended. Ensuring you have a trampoline ladder so they can get onto and off the trampoline safely is important too. Investing in some really thick, durable trampoline pads will also be a good idea, so the edge of the play equipment is covered.
Autistic people like to have a routine and familiarity in their day – if they know they are going swimming or going to bounce on their trampoline for one hour each day at a specific time, they will be inclined to stick to this rigorously. Once you have established this routine it is then almost easier to ensure they exercise every day as they are unlikely to want to stray from the comfort and familiarity of the routine.
Written by Abbi Stewart – ‘play expert’ at the Big Game Hunter’s Trampoline shop.