As featured in Spectrum Life Magazine's Spring 2018 Issue
As founder and head trainer at Specialty Athletic Training, I often receive emails from personal trainers asking for exercise tips that would help them train or assist youth and adults on the autism spectrum.
Here are some ideas for special needs fitness routines and things to remember:
1. Program design process stays the same – People are looking for a personal trainer because they are seeking something a little extra in their exercise routine. They want individual attention to help them meet their fitness goals, something that they cannot get in a group fitness class or in a school’s P.E. class. They all will come to you with different reasons for wanting a personal trainer and it is your job to create a program for them that is INDIVIDUALIZED to their needs and goals. Your program design process is the same for all clients, neurotypical or autistic.
2. Variety in communication – Individuals with autism are often very literal in their ways of thinking, so it is important that you communicate in a very clear, concise manner when describing the workout and giving instructions about how to perform the exercises. These instructions should include oral instruction accompanied by visual instruction as well. For example, I will make a list of the exercises that we are going to perform during the workout, demonstrate the exercise while giving oral instruction, and then do the exercise along with my client. Depending on my client’s needs, I may also break down each exercise into a 3 step picture sequence along with a visual countdown of repetitions remaining.
Your client may also have processing delays. Make sure to give them time to process the information that you are giving them and be patient. Eye contact may be limited or non existent as well, and that is OK!
Be precise, clear, and ready to communicate in a variety of ways depending on your client’s needs.
3. The weight room sensory experience – Weight rooms can be a living hell for an autistic individual, so LISTEN to your client. Many of our clients have sensory issues and experience the world around them very differently than their neurotypical peers. Loud sounds, strong smells, too many people can all lead to a negative experience. If your client says that it is too loud or that they are feeling anxious because of the crowd, then take the workout to a different room or outside if it is a nice day. You need to earn their trust and respect before you can try and gradually stretch their comfort zones.
They might not understand why their body acts in a certain way while exercising.
“Ryan, my heart feels like it’s coming out of my chest.” “My legs, they feel weak.” “My legs feel like Jell-O.” “My arms feel like they are burning.”
These are all things that I have had clients tell me. These are all physical sensations that we experience from exercising. Listen to your clients and explain how their body works and why they are feeling like that. Tell them that their heart rate increases during exercise because of your body’s need to increase blood flow. Explain to them how to calculate their maximum heart rate and find their target heart rate. You are not only a personal trainer, but a teacher as well. Teach your clients how to exercise and take care of their bodies, but also teach them how their bodies work and why they are experiencing the physical sensations.
Different, Not Less
When training any client you must address their individual needs and goals. With an autistic client, those needs may include communication, processing, and sensory differences compared to your neurotypical clients. However, their bodies and muscles still work the same. There is a saying, “If you have met ONE person with autism, then you have met ONE person with autism.” Every one of your clients will have different needs. It is your job to be able to listen to those needs and help them get their body moving and help them live a healthy lifestyle.
The above tips may or may not apply to your client, but I hope they are useful. Remember that there are no magic exercises for training this population, just a need for equal respect and open ears.
This article originally appeared on January 31st, 2018 at StephensPlace.org and is reprinted with permission.
As featured in Spectrum Life Magazine's Spring 2018 Issue
It was not uncommon for me to drink several sodas a day when I was a teenager. That was until my junior year in high school. The summer before beginning my junior year, I went to a week long overnight basketball team camp in Washington. Some of the drills and games were played outside in the heat of the direct sunlight. Our coach explained the increased risk of dehydration and placed a "no soda" rule on the team for the week and insisted that we drank water instead. After the week of camp and tired of only drinking water, I had a soda as soon as I entered my house. But I couldn't get passed the first sip. It was too sweet.
I then began drinking fruit juice to replace the soda in my every day diet, thinking that it was a healthier option. This is common for most Americans trying to reduce/replace their soda intake when trying to make healthier life style choices. Schools have even replaced soda in vending machines with fruit juice. The problem is that juice contains just as much sugar, sometimes more, than the soda that it is replacing and presents the same health risks as soda. Here's why.
Soda is artificial and uses high fructose corn syrup as it's sweetener. Juice comes from fruit, which is naturally sweetened by fructose. When fructose enters your body, it is sent to be processed in your liver. Part of the fructose is converted into glucose and stored as glycogen, while most of it is converted into triglycerides (a type of fat). High amounts of triglycerides leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
The journal of Nutrition published an article last year that looked at the difference in the level of fructose in sodas and juices, what they found may surprise you. They found that fruit juice purchased in the store had, on average, a fructose concentration of 45.5 grams/liter, just 4.5 grams/liter less than it's soda counterpart (50 grams/liter). Minute Maid Apple Juice had the highest fructose concentration of the juices that were in the study at 65.8 grams/liter. That is higher than soda power houses Pepsi (65.7 grams/liter), Coca Cola (62.5 grams/liter), and Dr. Pepper (61.4 grams/liter).
Well does this mean that eating whole fruit is just as bad as drinking soda too, since it contains fructose? No. Whole fruits also contain fiber, which slows down the and reduces the absorption of sugar in the body.
So what if you aren't ready to cut juice completely out of your diet, but don't want the high amounts of sugar? Although many juices have begun to cut the sugar, it is recommended to dilute your juice with 50% water.
Lesson? My morning glass of fruit juice had more sugar than if I drank a morning glass of Pepsi. Several years ago, I completely cut out fruit juice and began drinking water. And I have never felt better. If you are a juice-a-holic like I was, make sure to dilute your juice with water, or better yet, just drink water.
From Women's Basketball Coaches Association
ATLANTA -- Lauren Wood of Lewis & Clark is the recipient of the 2018 Charles T. Stoner Law Scholarship Award, announced by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association today.
The $1,000 Charles T. Stoner Law Scholarship Award, named for and presented by Stoner, a former legal consultant to the WBCA, is given annually to one female collegiate basketball player who intends to pursue a career in law.
"I am pleased to present Lauren Wood with the Charles T. Stoner Law Scholarship Award," said Danielle Donehew, executive director of the WBCA. "Lauren has proven to be an astute student and a great competitor on the basketball court. Throughout her time at Lewis & Clark, she has learned invaluable lessons that will allow her to succeed in her future endeavors. The WBCA supports her intention of pursuing a law degree and her future work to serve the greater society."
Wood is a senior at Lewis & Clark, majoring in psychology. She has maintained an overall 3.36 grade point average (GPA).
She has been active on campus serving as the co-chair of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark Representative and a student-athlete mentor. The senior from Morrison, Colo. also worked as a Specialty Athletic Training intern for individuals with special needs.
Wood gets her work done on the court and in the classroom as well. She was named to the Dean's List in Fall 2017 and received a Dean's Scholarship. She led the Pioneers and ranked third in the Northwest Conference with 10 rebounds per game. She also led the team in field goal percentage at 46.5 percent.
The Charles T. Stoner Law Scholarship Award was first presented in 1996. Visit www.wbca.org/recognize/ to see a list of past recipients.
Lauren served as a Specialty Athletic Training student intern this past fall.
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 and the Central Oregon Disability Support Network.