Tip of the Week: EXERCISE
It is well known that exercise has many benefits for everyone. Exercise helps control weight, combats health conditions, improves mood, boosts energy, promotes better sleep, and increases opportunities to be social!
For individuals with Autism, the importance of exercise is just as important if not even more so due to children with ASD who may be at an elevated risk of becoming overweight. In addition to the benefits listed above, research shows that consistent exercise may lead to a reduction in problem behavior. Below are some tips to help develop an exercise program for your child:
1. Begin by determining what type of exercise your child may respond to best. To do this, I recommend trying everything from sports to running to dance (anything that gets the heart rate up) and observe your child’s affect and participation. Are they able to participate with some ease and do they seem to like it? If it’s too hard or they simply don’t like it, it’s probably not the right exercise for them.
2. Start exercise routines early! The younger you begin healthy routines, the easier it will be to maintain throughout an individual’s lifetime.
3. Create an exercise program that is attainable and fun! Build the exercise gradually. If your child enjoys running, start by running slow and for a short duration. Gradually build up the speed or amount of time they are running.
4. Find a buddy! Whether it’s a parent, sibling, or friend, exercise is always better when done with someone else.
5. Involve your child as much as possible in making decisions over the type of exercise and how they want to perform the exercise. Provide choices that can be verbal, through pictures or through videos. For example, if your child is using exercise equipment, provide choices of using the treadmill, the bike, or the elliptical. Provide choices over the speed or the amount of time.
6. Make exercise fun! While exercising, put on a favorite video or song.
7. Establish a routine. Progress will be best made if there is a consistent routine with clear expectations. A schedule may help to make the exercise routine more predictable. Have your child help make the schedule and have them cross off the activities after completed. Pictures or text may be used to create the schedule. For example, create an order of activities (treadmill, bike, stretching). Think about varying the schedule each time so that you maintain some novelty, which may increase motivation.
8. Provide incentives! Think about a reward following the completion of exercise. This will keep your child excited about doing it again.
Although beginning exercise routines may not be easy at first, if developed and built upon in a gradual way, the benefits will be immeasurable and well worth the hard work in the end. Please feel free to reach out with any questions.