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Exercise Connection: Fitness program for autistic and disabled people

October 6, 2013 8:29:01 AM PDT
Exercise Connection is a unique fitness program designed for people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

There are several exercise programs tailored to the autistic population, but Exercise Connection takes it to another level.

At the North Shore YMCA in Northbrook, teens and young adults are going through the drills.

Coach David Geslak is the founder of Exercise Connection.

"What makes us unique is that a lot of our individuals that are part of the program can then teach them to other children and adults with or without special needs. But also it is about being a part of the YMCA and us partnering together in the facility because they can adapt lights, sensory needs to meet the needs of children and adults," said Geslak.

He says Exercise Connection focuses on five components of physical fitness.

"We're doing things about improving body image, posture, muscular fitness motor coordination and cardiovascular fitness and ultimately trying to educate the kids or the adults so they can make it a part of their daily lifestyle," he said.

Rachel Spidalette, 17, is benefitting.

"Before Exercise Connection I used to be very stressed from school. My mom learned about it at an autism convention," said Spidalette. "I used to have weak abdominal strength. Dave has helped me through the exercise to strengthen that, so I will feel more confident about how I feel about my body. I feel fine because I tend to be the leader type in most situations."

"Whether they're a child or adult we can start with basic patterns and basic education about just identifying their right from their left side or their head from their feet because if you're going to teach exercise they need to know the parts of the body that's going to transfer over to have more success," said Geslak.

The North Shore YMCA is the only place Exercise Connection is being offered, but they are looking to expand to other locations.


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