Congratulations to founder Ryan Lockard for recently joining the Autism Society of America's board of directors!
Autism Society of America has been improving the lives of all affected by autism for over 50 years and envisions a world where individuals and families living with autism are able to maximize their quality of life, are treated with the highest level of dignity, and live in a society in which their talents and skills are appreciated and valued. They provide advocacy, education, information and referral, support, and community at national, state and local levels through their strong nationwide network of Affiliates.
Ryan previously served six years on the board of directors for his local affiliate, the Autism Society of Oregon.
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.
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.