Too often limits are placed on children with special needs or expectations for them are set lower than their peers. Exercise is no exception. I get asked frequently if children with special needs can workout. The answer is, ABSOLUTELY!
There is no denying that we are battling an obesity epidemic here in the United States. Did you know that 20% of American children are obese? Or that children with disabilities are 38% more likely to be obese compared to their peers? These stats are from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and unfortunately are reflected of data from 2015-2016. I can assure you that those numbers have only gotten worse since then, especially with the reduced amount of exercise in schools and general poor nutrition of the typical American diet.
We often get asked if a child is too young for our program. The answer is always, "No". Movement is vital during all stages of life, as is placing an emphasis on making fitness fun! Many of the workouts we do with our clients are not complex or different than the training programs for their neurotypical peers, rather they are very similar if not exactly the same. What is the difference then? Our approach.
Many of our clients have had a negative experience with exercise or sports in the past, but we make it a priority to create a fun and safe environment for them to be successful. A child can gain an invaluable amount of confidence from exercising that will transfer to all areas of their life, if done properly. Exercise has a very unique way of building self esteem and self confidence that is hard to find in other aspects of life. This is why I will always advocate for movement and exercise for ALL children and why we need to turn our thinking to changing our school structure to provide it.
The future is the children of our country, and they need more movement or our obesity numbers will continue on the upward trend. Children with special needs are no different and need to be included in the movement!
"It depends." This is our most common answer when asked about recommendations for training a client with a disability.
"How many sets and reps should we do?"
" What exercises should we have them do?"
"Do they learn best with verbal, visual, or physical prompts?"
Training this population is no different than training any other. You have to take into consideration their exercise history, their needs, and their goals to properly design a program for them. Every person is unique and their training program should be too. How do we train and select the exercises that we use with our clients? It depends.
Are you an athlete that is trying to improve their athleticism? Are you someone that is trying to improve their overall fitness? The front squat is our favorite squat variation for athletes and general population clientele. Here is one of our trainers demonstrating what it looks like using a barbell, but you could also use a dumbbell, kettlebell, or medicine ball to do the same exercise. For more variations, make sure to check out our YouTube channel!
1) To begin place the bar on the rack approximately armpit height.
2) Grasp the bar with closed pronated grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
3) Begin to rotate arms under and around the bar so that the bar is placed slightly below shoulders.
4) Keep elbows lifted up and forward, wrists should be hyperextended.
5) Lift bar away from rack, take one step backwards. Position feet shoulder width apart.
6) Starting downward movement of the squat, begin descending toward the floor like you are going to sit on a chair.
7) After thighs are parallel to the floor, start the upward movement by pushing up through your feet until back at starting position.
8) Step forward and rack the bar after recommended repetitions are complete.
Looking for a healthy dinner for you to enjoy with your family? JaCee has taken out all of the hassle and made it easy for you by providing step by step instructions. Give the Turkey Taco Bowls a try and let us know what you think!
Turkey Taco bowls for 6:
Instructions how to cook dinner:
In 2007, I was working as a 1:1 aide for a thirteen year old boy with autism. I noticed that the expectations for him were set far below of those of his peers, especially in his physical education class.
I had an idea about creating a business that served the disability community that provided a fun and safe place for them to learn how to exercise. Many said that it was a great idea, but impossible to create a business providing the service that I had in mind. Thank goodness that I didn't listen.
With the support of my wife Mary and friends, on June 12, 2012 I filed for an LLC in the state of Oregon and made my idea a reality. Specialty Athletic Training has now served over 375 individuals of various ages and disabilities, and have 5 locations throughout the states of Oregon and Washington.
Here's to seven years of making fitness fun, inclusive and providing the opportunity to live a healthy life accessible to everyone. Thank you for all of your continued support and love!
Living in the Pacific Northwest, we experience true weather seasons throughout the year. Each season has their own pros and cons. Summertime is a beautiful time to be in the PNW and is my favorite season. Just thinking about summer makes my nostrils flare with the anticipation of BBQ in the air. However, not everyone loves the sun and heat of summer. The heat can be overwhelming at times and can make it hard to get outside and exercise, leading to many days in the air-conditioned house living a sedentary lifestyle. Sound familiar? Here are five tips to help you stay healthy and active as you beat the heat this upcoming summer!
Get your steps in – Go for a morning walk or run. Exercise is a great way to start your day and you’ll avoid the heat by doing early. Enjoy walking but not a morning person? Go to your local mall or a department store. They are generally air-conditioned and large enough that you won’t feel awkward walking the same loop a couple of times.
How many steps should you try to reach? The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends reaching 11,000 to 14,000 steps a day. Does that seem unattainable for you or your child? Start with a smaller goal that you feel is achievable and use that as your baseline. Increase that number by 250 steps each week until you reach the recommended daily steps. This may take months to reach and that’s ok! The most important thing is developing the habit of moving your body!
Trust your heart - It is important to keep an eye on your heart rate as you exercise. The increased heat will be driving your heart rate up without exercise, so make sure that you are not pushing yourself to overexertion. It can also let you know if you could be working a little harder to reach your desired goals. Wondering what your target heart rate should be? Visit www.heart.org and type in “Target Heart Rate” for more information.
Many of our clients have a difficult time understanding their body and self-regulating. It can be tricky as a trainer, or a parent, to know if your child is moving enough to increase their heart rate to the desired level. Heart rate monitors solve this dilemma. Not only is it a great visual and tool for you as the parent, but understanding the target number and seeing their heart rate in real time can also serve as a great motivator for the child.
Hydrate – It is important to drink water year-round, but especially as it begins to heat up. Your body will be naturally displacing your fluids trying to cool your body off, so make sure to drink extra water if you are spending time outside. The ideal amount of water that you should be drinking will vary based on your body and activity level, so your best indicator is your urine. If you’re not peeing clear, drink more water!
Fuel up – Do you have a long day of activities planned? Make sure to fuel your body appropriately to sustain your energy level. You should be eating protein with every meal accompanied by a good amount of vegetables. Always carry snacks with you to prevent becoming hangry and turning into the Hulk. Nuts are a good quick snack that are packed with energy. Allergic to nuts? Try a protein bar of your choice.
Monitor – Invest in smart technology that will help you stay on track. There are several great products out there that will help you monitor all the above. They all have different ways for you to stay motivated and consistent.
For heart rate and step tracking, Fitbit has a ton of products that are high quality with different options for your needs. They have simple trackers that look like a bracelet (less invasive) to watches (our favorite for learning to tell time). The Fitbit app will also sync with another app that I recommend using to track your daily calorie intake, MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal is a free app that does a great job of helping you track your daily nutrition, hydration, and is very customizable based on your own fitness goals. It can scan bar codes, which allows you to input your meals with ease with accuracy.
Originally aired on 05/27/2019
Maintaining healthy fitness levels is challenging enough for the general population and can be even more complicated for those with disabilities. What can we do about some of the common barriers so our loved one with special needs is on a path toward health?
I joined Kim of the LOMAH Special Needs Podcast to share the story of Specialty Athletic Training, talk about the business, and share some client success stories. This is a show that you don't want to miss. Click below to listen now!
Emily Hatch, CSCS is our Vancouver Facility Manager. She was recently highlighted by KATU News in their "Everyday Heroes" segment. We couldn't agree more!
"Today's everyday hero was a standout basketball player at Lake Oswego High School and at the University of San Diego.
After turning pro and playing several seasons in the women's league in Denmark, Emily Hatch is back in the Pacific Northwest, training special needs athletes.
You’ll see a lot of happy faces during Emily Hatch’s Specialty Athletic Training classes in Vancouver twice a week.
There’re squats and weight training, plenty of time to get in some reps. And also, work on balance and coordination.
And throughout, there is Emily Hatch’s guidance and encouragement.
"Three, good job. Four. Big smile, man. Five. That’s six."
It's as much about getting in shape as it is about having fun and building self-confidence.
“Our main goal is just to make it fun and to empower these individuals and make them feel really great about themselves while integrating a healthy lifestyle," Hatch said.
A chance meeting with the head of Specialty Athletic Training was a turning point.
"I just have been so attached and drawn to the special needs community,” she said. “I was lucky enough to get this opportunity.”
Two of Emily’s client's moms say they have seen profound changes in their sons.
"He gets up at the crack of dawn and is just excited to come work out. He loves the workout partners and he also loves Emily,” said Aaron Robinson’s mom, Vickie Robinson. “It’s made him a lot stronger. You see him lifting those weights -- he's pretty fast and intense.”
Mark Stewart is blind and developmentally delayed.
His mom Patty Stewart said it was tough to find activities for him after he finished school.
“This is a great program," Stewart said. “I mean, I am amazed. The trainers are awesome -- it’s going to make me cry because she’s so cool.”
But Emily says she's also learning from them.
“Oh, so much,” she said. “A lot of what I’ve learned is patience, listening. How each individual is so different. Just how to enjoy life, enjoy the simple things. All of my clients have brought so much joy to my life.”
Emily tells us that the exercise regimes for her clients are tailored to their individual needs, with an emphasis on the lower and upper body, and core-strength conditioning."
We love hearing the reasons why our clients enjoy coming to train with us. Here is our friend Vanessa explaining why she likes working out at Specialty Athletic Training!
About the Author
Ryan Lockard, CSCS, CSPS is the founder and head trainer of Specialty Athletic Training and is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Special Populations Specialist. He is a member of the board of directors for the Autism Society of America, Central Oregon Disability Support Network, as well as the Lewis & Clark College Board of Alumni.