Today Longevity Exercise Physiology  Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwickPymble, Balmain, and Neutral Bay share a challenging story and give their top 5 tips for exercise and behaviour management for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

SMASH!

Smash! Jude’s Mum and his support worker Jenny* shot out of their seats and turned around. “It’s ok, it was just a mug” I said calmly. I was conducting an initial assessment with Jude* who was a 9 year old boy living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and had challenging behaviours. Jude was walking around the room picking up objects and feeling their texture to satisfy his need for sensory stimulation. This is quite common in children with ASD. Jude walked behind the couch his Mum and Jenny were sitting on. He picked up a white decorative ceramic mug and was feeling the rough texture with his hands. He looked up at the wall in front of him and cocked his arm to throw.

In slow motion, but before I could get any words out, the mug was sailing in the air, hit the wall and had shattered into pieces. I was the only one that saw what happened because his Mum and Jenny were facing the other way. They were mortified. I reassured them that it was fine as it was only a cheap Kmart mug. They explained that Jude had a tendency to throw things and that it was best to keep breakables out of reach. I made sure Jude was sitting down and while I completed the rest of the assessment.

I used a whiteboard so that Jude could visualise what the session looked like. I noticed he would pick things up much quicker if I showed him, rather than explaining it to him.

Strict but fair

Before Jude came in for his first exercise session, I removed all breakables from the gym area. During our first month of sessions, Jude was very distracted and difficult to keep on task. We would only get through around 5-6 sets of exercises in a half hour session. At times it was frustrating but I knew that repetition was important for kids with ASD and things would get better. I explained to Jude that if he was not following direction, our exercise session would be cut short. I had to be firm to manage Jude’s behaviour. There were some occasions that I had to cut the session short because he was breaking the rules of our session. However, things improved because I was consistent with my rules and kept the same exercises for the first 6 weeks. I used a whiteboard so that Jude could visualise what the session looked like. I noticed he would pick things up much quicker if I showed him, rather than explaining it to him.

At this point I was able to introduce 1-2 new exercises every session, which would have never been possible at the start.

Jude’s improvement

About 3 months in, Jude was able to get through 10-12 sets of exercises, doubling what he used to do within a session. Even better, Jude was less distracted and much more engaged in our session. At this point I was able to introduce 1-2 new exercises every session, which would have never been possible at the start. After 12 months, Jude would be very excited for our sessions and would very rarely break them. By then, we were able to get through around 15-18 sets of exercise per session. I have learned a lot from working with Jude and children with ASD over the years. Below are my top 5 tips for exercise and managing behaviour for kids with ASD.

Top 5 tips for Exercise, Behaviour Management and Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Routine is king
  • Be consistent with the rules
  • Physically demonstrate rather than explain
  • Visuals are critical
  • Remove potential distractions where possible

*Name and details of people in the story have been changed for anonymity.

If you want to know more about how exercise can help children with ASD, contact Longevity Personal Training and Exercise Physiology Edgecliff, Pymble, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain, Bella Vista, Neutral Bay on 1300 964 002 today.

Written by Josh Taylor