AUTISM AND EXERCISE GUIDELINES
by Mia J KACEN (AEP AES MIPH – 2011 EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST OF THE YEAR)
You and I are different. Every individual is different. So let us understand how each individual responds to a different intervention rather than a “one size fits all” approach.
In this article I shall go through:
- Personlised tips I incorporate into our sessions.
- Prevalence of Autism worldwide and in Australia.
- How can Autism affect everyday life?
- What can Health Professionals do to help you?
- What are benefits of exercise?
- Physical Activity guidelines for healthy children and adults.
I shall share a few tips that I utilise when having fun with my clients especially as my clients with autism may have weaker muscular tone and/or coordination. As every client is different, my approach will focus on what works best for each individual. I incorporate goals and activities to improve muscular strength , coordination and balance, yet I also encourage improving self-efficacy and confidence.
- Mirrors – Sometimes I use a mirror or a reflective window so that my client is cycling on a stationary bike and can watch themselves… the feedback is amazing. Some of my clients finds joy looking at themselves exercising. Again this is an individual based approach depending on which techniques portray the best results. E.G. Some clients look at their reflection and intrinsically motivate themselves to increase their intensity and revolutions per second on the bike.
- Textures – If my Client likes the feeling of sand or a rough texture: We will Glue sand onto a ball and encourage ball skills such as throwing and catching.
- Water – If our clients enjoy the sensation of being in water – we can then teach skills for swimming and floating and hydrotherapy.
At Mia’s Health we always aim to make exercises safe, then fun and if possible educational. We love to HAVE FUN! We have found the correlation between clients achievement to when they are having fun so if they like to be perform a certain activity we will adapt our prescription as much as possible to match what they wish to achieve.
For example not only will your client that loves horse riding be happier on a horse but they will be improving their horse riding technique AND core stability and strength in their abdominals, rectus abdominis, obliques, transversus abdominis and erector spinae (back) strength, which is vital for posture, strength and flexibility of the spine.
Did you know when horse riding you must activate your Butt Muscles – technically speaking our Gluteus Maximus & Medius. These muscles are so important for everyday activities like walking or bending over to pick up a pencil or climbing stairs. These gluteal muscles are imperative to maintaining balance.
We integrate our hips, more specifically our Hip Abductors (think Abduct – remove from the midline of our body ) & Adductors (think Addition such as adding towards the midline of our body). One of my favourite muscles to pronounce is the TFL – Tensor Fascia Latae (sounds like a latte beverage). This particular group of muscles are important for everyday living and provide strength to stabilise our hips and pelvis.
So yes, our client likes horse riding in addition to #equinetherapy the client improves their balance, coordination and overall body strength which in turn improve their everyday living by improving their posture and balancing strength.
***I will take clients:
Really I will encourage what ever it is they wish to achieve.
We will go to a park, pool, gym or a home visit in the comfort of their own home.
Exercise can help to improve blood flow, inflammatory markers in our blood, build strong bones and muscles, improve balance, movement and coordination skills, promote self efficacy and self confidence, promote mental, emotional and social wellbeing, encourage improved concentration in learning and thinking and decrease risk of injury by improving flexibility and strength.
Call me if you need to organise an assessment, consult, tips, exercise prescription or exercise session.
2. PREVALENCE – WORLDWIDE: in other words How many people have AUTISM?
Estimated of 1–2% (Baxter et al. 2015; CDC 2016; Idring et al. 2015)
How many people have AUTISM In AUSTRALIA:
164,000 people -2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Caring (SDAC)
3. How can Autism affect everyday life?
- School (Levy and Perry 2011),
- Work (Howlin et al. 2013),
- Social Relationships (Schmidt et al. 2015),
- Domestic life (Fortuna et al. 2015; Matson et al. 2009)
- Self-care (Borremans et al. 2010; Du et al. 2015).
- Motor coordination deficits,
- Hypersensitivity issues,
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Voice & Speech disfluency.
- Broad variation of personal factors was mentioned to affect functional level in ASD, including supportive factors such as high IQ and acceptance towards own diagnosis.
4. What can Health Professionals do to help you?
Language and social skills – Intensive educational programs & behavioural therapies
Speech pathology – Develops communication & social skills
Occupational Therapy – Concentrates on sensory motor development such as fine motor skills
Exercise Physiology– Gross Motor, concentration, attention, skills
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – Specific goals with the support network
5. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE?
***Exercise interventions led to a 37% improvement in symptoms of ASD, specifically:
- Academic improvement
***Particularly reductions in stereotypical behaviour patterns, improvements in verbal & non-verbal social communication skills.
***Develops & Improve:
- Muscle Control & Strength
- Coordination & Balance
- Aerobic Capacity
So where shall we begin?
- Aerobic & resistance exercises (under supervision, total of 60 mins)
- Start at 5-10 minutes of exercise,
- @ 1-2 days a week,
- Progress to 15-60 minutes for 5-7 days a week.
Which Exercises can you do if you are healthy?
- Swimming & water play work well for children with large sensory needs.
- Focus on encouraging fundamental movement skills – running, catching, kicking, leaping, throwing, kicking, or jumping.
- Whilst this may seem like big steps for some, break each skill into little parts and focus on exaggerating movements.
Physical activity and exercise guidelines for all Australians | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care
“Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines outline how much physical activity you should do, the importance of reducing the time you spend sitting or lying down, and how much sleep children and young people should get. Needs vary depending on your age.”
6. Physical Activity GUIDELINES FOR KIDS – click on the link above for the Government Guidelines.
Physical Activity GUIDELINES FOR ADULTS – click on the link above for the Government Guidelines.
It is important for young children to enjoy moving around and exploring their world.
Exercise can help to:
- achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- build strong bones and muscles
- improve balance, movement and coordination skills
- promote mental, emotional and social wellbeing
- promote better learning and thinking
- reduce injuries.
It’s important for us as parents and carers to support and encourage our children to be active, to help them be healthier, happier, smarter and stronger. It is important for young children to grow and develop working towards.
- spending more time in active play
- spending less time sitting
- getting enough sleep each day.
Give your children the freedom to create their own play, and do things that encourage independence and appropriate risk taking while supervised. This could be walking along a low wall, building a cubby house with branches or climbing a low tree. Physical activity and exercise guidelines for all Australians | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care
Parents and carers can also be great role models for their children, by being active themselves. Read our physical activity guidelines for adults.
MIA J KACEN Professional Development Creator and Event Organiser
Master of International Public Health, Bachelor of Health and Exercise Science Honours, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Exercise & Sports Science Australia Member.
Mia currently works in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs as a Mobile Exercise
Physiologist. Mia’s passion for Health Promotion and education led her
to complete her Master of International Public Health at Sydney
University and pursue her dream job at the World Health Organisation
Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Mia focuses on a
multidisciplinary health team approach treating non-communicable
diseases and prescribing exercises for those that need it the most. Mia
has specialised working with children and adults with Autism, for over
17 years and currently works with NDIS Multi-disciplinary Teams.
Call me if you need to organise an assessment, telehealth, Exercise Physiology consult, tips, exercise prescription or exercise session.