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Exercise Rated No. 1 Treatment for Autism

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Autism

Approximately 1% of the world’s population lives with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including one in every 54 children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research shows that physical activity offers many physical, cognitive and social benefits for these individuals.

Unfortunately, they are being left out of physical education, even with the federal mandate, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 100.18. This is both a problem and an opportunity for the fitness industry.

Exercise is Good for Everyone but Especially for those with Autism

Continuous research studies reveal that exercise can positively impact both the health and challenges of those with autism. As further evidence, in the National Survey of Autism Treatment Effectiveness, autism parents rated exercise as the No. 1 treatment for those with autism.

In addition to the health-related benefits, exercise has been shown to build confidence, increase on-task behavior and improve academic performance for those with autism. A study published in the American College of Sport Medicine Journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, reported that 10-minutes of low-to-moderate intensity exercise produced significant reductions in stereotypical behavior in children with autism. A 10-minute exercise is an attainable goal for fitness professionals to set for their new clients.

The Highest Standards in Both Science and Practice

It has become a common trend in exercise education to create focused programs and certifications so exercise professionals can help diverse populations. The Autism Exercise Specialist Certificate is one of the newest education programs that will empower professionals and clubs to bring exercise to this population. 

If You Build it They Will Come and Keep Coming Back

If a club or fitness professional’s intention is to offer individual or group exercise sessions without proper education, it will surely fail. Successfully engaging a person with autism into any new activity — especially exercise — will take patience, creativity and evidence-based teaching practices. One of the most proven practices to teach those with autism are visual supports, such as pictures. When you begin to teach exercise, using these same strategies will be familiar and effective.

A great marketing campaign may quickly get them to walk in the door, but if you don’t understand how this community learns best, they will leave even faster — and never return. When done properly a club and trainer can have a client for life.

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David Geslak

David Geslak, ACSM EP-C, CSCS, is the founder and president of Exercise Connection and has been creating award-winning, internationally-adopted, autism exercise programs for the past 15 years. David can be reached at david@exerciseconnection.com or exerciseconnection.com.

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