For Your Family: Exercise and Autism

April 5, 2011 5:03:00 AM PDT
A new book on fitness activities for children with autism helps improve health and socialization skills.

More than half of children with autism spectrum disorders are overweight, at risk for diabetes or cardiovascular disease, have bone and joint problems or suffer from depression, anxiety and gastrointestinal problems. Those alarming statistics were the impetus for a new book on exercise-related activities for children with autism, written by nationally recognized fitness expert Suzanne M. Gray.

Gray is releasing the book in conjunction with World Autism Day, April 2.

As one of America's leading fitness professionals for children with autism, Gray has seen first-hand how these exercises really work in improving motor skills and muscle tone, eliminating self-destructive and self-stimulating behaviors and enhancing socialization skills in children with autism. The book, entitled, 101Games and Activities for Youth with Autism, is published by Healthy Learning and is now available online at www.Right-Fit.com and www.healthylearning.com . The fitness activities and games in this book are based on the author's innovative "Raise the Bar" program, which received the Club Industry Best of the Best Award for "Best Children's Fitness Program."

"The book outlines specific exercises that parents can do with their children every day," says Gray. "A regular fun routine that also mimics play is essential to improve the muscular imbalances and compensations, deficient motor skills, poor posture and other fitness pitfalls common in youth with autism. It improves response to sensory information and will help increase independence, happiness and self-esteem."

Exercises include:
1. Raise the Bar (using a stick)
2. Squeezing a tennis ball to help with grip and motor control
3. Using a Rope to walk the plank or play Tug-of-War
4. Balloons are great for eye/hand coordination
5. Hula Hoops help with aerobic activity and coordination

More than half of children with autism spectrum disorders are overweight, at risk for diabetes or cardiovascular disease, have bone and joint problems or suffer from depression and anxiety. One out of every 110 children in the U.S. has autism. 1.5 million Americans today have some form of autism. It is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S. Frequently not apparent at birth, autism occurs sometime in the first three years of life. It is estimated that the cost of autism in the U.S. is more than $35 billion annually and is rising. Cost of life-long care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention. Autism is four times more common in boys than girls.

Children spend 50 percent less time outside than they did 20 years ago. 6.5 hours a day are spent with electronic media: TV, video games, cell phones, texting, etc. There is a definite link between play deficiencies and health conditions/social trends: more childhood obesity and depression, socially inadequate children unable to interact with peers.

Many of these children exhibit poor posture, low muscle tone, clumsiness, poor coordination, sensory issues and are overweight.

Alarmed by these statistics, Suzanne M. Gray, owner of Right Fit Sports Fitness Wellness in Willowbrook and fitness expert for special needs children, designed a program for children with autism and then she wrote a book about it! Gray has seen first-hand how these exercises improve motor skills and muscle tone, assist the child in losing weight, help with self-esteem and socialization and eliminate self-destructive and self-stimulating behaviors.

The book, entitled, 101 Games and Activities for Youth with Autism, is published by Healthy Learning and is now available online at www.Right-Fit.com and www.healthylearning.com.

Goals for these activities are to improve: Attention, balance, bilateral coordination, motor planning, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, strength and endurance, sensory processing, social and communication skills. These are skills that need to be improved in all children, but even more so in children with autism.

The fitness activities and games in this book are based on the author's innovative "Raise the Bar" program, which received the Club Industry Best of the Best Award for "Best Children's Fitness Program."

The book outlines specific exercises that parents can do with their children every day. Gray says a regular fun routine that also mimics play is essential to improve the muscular imbalances and compensations, deficient motor skills, poor posture and other fitness pitfalls common in youth with autism. It improves response to sensory information and will help increase independence, happiness and self-esteem.

Strategies and tips for parents: Consistent daily routine with easy goals so children feel like they accomplished something. Use charts and pictures to help them understand what they are doing. Incorporate music into the routine. Utilize less talk and more fun in activities. Try to get them to do a few exercises, one aerobic activity (like running or hula hoops or indoor hockey) and one game or activity (Go Fish, Bubbles, jewelry making, etc.) that will help with gross motor skills.

For more info visit www.Right-Fit.com and www.healthylearning.com.


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