Access is the biggest barrier that the community that we serve encounters, and quality fitness instruction is no exception. My journey in this field began in 2007 when I had the opportunity to work with an autistic thirteen-year-old boy named Ben. Although very capable, expectations for Ben were set far lower than his peers due to his disability. This was drastically apparent in his physical education experience. While he was included in activities, the projected standard of performance was drastically reduced due to behaviors that he exhibited during physical exertion. I realized that these behaviors were derived from his sensory experience during exercise and him being unaware of the body’s natural response to working out. After becoming aware and educated about this response, the behaviors decreased and expectations were raised.
It is common knowledge the obesity is on the rise in the United States, but what isn’t discussed is the increased risk of obesity for children (38%) and adults (58%) with a disability compared to their peers. Seeing an opportunity to provide high-impact services to this community, doing something I am passionate about, Specialty Athletic training was born in 2012. It was founded with the intent of providing quality fitness instruction to allow these individuals to thrive. By creating a fun and inclusive environment, my company has provided direct services to over 350 individuals of various ages and diagnoses and has expanded to several locations in the Pacific Northwest.
It has become my mission to drive awareness of the true abilities of the disabled community, destroy common stereotypes, and break down barriers to access. Fitness has been my avenue in doing so and it all started because of a boy named Ben.
About the Author
Ryan Lockard, CSCS, CSPS is the head trainer and founder of Specialty Athletic Training. He a member of the Autism Society of Oregon's Board of Directors and is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Special Populations Specialist. Ryan has worked with individuals with special needs since 2007 and has over 10,000 hours of 1:1 instruction working with individuals that have various special needs.