Alfred Chavira, Any Baby Can’s Health and Wellness Director holds a Bachelors in Biology and a Masters in Kinesiology. He has 10 years of experience in the field of health and wellness and 6 years of experience in adaptive fitness. Alfred also teaches a CEU Class titled “Teaching Strategies for Adapted Fitness”. He has presented strategies for adapted fitness at multiple conferences including: 2105 SHAPE America Southern District Conference, 2014 California Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, 2104 5-P Society Annual Conference, 2014 Autism Society of Greater Austin and more. AS101 is pleased to offer our viewers/readers the insights of Alfred Chavira!
Did you know that children ages 6 to 13 years need a recommended 9-11 hours of sleep? Did you know that children ages 6 to 17 years need a recommended 60 minutes of exercise every day? Lastly, did you know that research shows a correlation between individuals with autism, exercise, and sleep? David Wachob and David Lorenzi from Indiana University recently conducted a study in which 10 individuals with ASD between the ages of 9-17 years were measured for two things: time spent participating in physical activity and amount of time in restful sleep. Their 7 day study resulted in their participants having more restful sleep as they increased their physical activity during the day. In other words, an increase in exercise like outdoor play meant an increase in sleep. This, in turn, could potentially lead to more positive results like increased attention span, weight loss, behavior changes, and social interactions.
But how do we get our kiddos to move? How do we get them away from the TV and computer? In this blog I will discuss 3 easy steps that will hopefully help get your family moving.
1. Our first step, and probably the most important, is to set the mood in regards to exercise.
Most kids see exercise as a chore when in reality it should be fun. Find something that your child can relate to. This can be stickers, coloring books, games, or tv time (tv time as an incentive) of their favorite show or characters, for example “Big Hero 6”.
Decorate your workout area in pictures or printouts of their favorite character and make it more inviting. You can even use a “Big Hero 6” t-shirt as their official workout uniform. This will hopefully shed some positive/fun perspective on exercise.
Just like physical characteristics and personalities, we all have different taste palates. Are you a sweet-tooth person? Do you enjoy bitter or sour? Are spicy foods appetizing to you? Well, individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s have additional components that they factor in when deciding if they like a food or not.
They may have a texture component like crunchy or soft. What about a color component like only yellow foods or green foods? Food temperature can also help determine if they are willing to taste that food.
Due to the added components that have to line up before making a decision to taste a food item, the act of trying new foods can be an overwhelming event for someone with Asperger’s.
What can we do to help the process of trying and accepting new foods when working with someone with these difficulties? How can we place ourselves in their shoes and hopefully understand their view of new foods?
Managing your weight for good health can be a difficult goal to obtain and keep. From counting calories to the numerous diets available to knowing which gym facility to join or what exercises to do, the options can be overwhelming for someone that just wants to get started.
It is even more challenging for someone with a special medical need. You add a whole new layer of obstacles on top of what we already mentioned. Don’t be discouraged before you start, or even after you start, for that matter.
Weight management is a long and hard journey that requires your soul, mind, and body but it will change your life. Before we start I advise you consult your physician concerning changes in your lifestyle that affect your meals and physical activity.
Attention deficiency can become a barrier for many things to many people. Children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome often times are also diagnosed with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity disorder and may have a hard time concentrating in class, have a hard time sitting still during dinner, or may lack consistency. Adults diagnosed with ADHD may struggle with organization at work or home.
ADHD is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often persists into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.
Besides proper medication, practicing Yoga can be another support to help ease the mind and relax the body.
Yoga is an ancient art based on a harmonizing system of development for the body, mind, and spirit. Practicing yoga can help in slowing down the mind, relaxing the body, and becoming aware with your immediate present. In other words, for someone whose mind is racing, has a difficult time concentrating, and has extra energy, yoga can be a good support to help in reducing these emotions.
The question is how do I even begin doing yoga? Well, get ready because here are your first 3 steps into beginning your journey to calmness and relaxation!
Technology and exercise? I know what you are thinking, how can I use a fitness product like a smart watch or fitness bracelet to get my child to exercise? Do I need to or am I financially able to purchase a fitness product like that? What if they don’t like it or use it and I’ve already spent the money buying it. Is there setup of the product or is it ready for use?
Technology can be overwhelming but can also be very useful. The amount of fitness products out there is tremendous, but they each serve a purpose and a specific fit for someone. Today’s discussion will be on technology use during exercise but it will take a different perspective than you think.
Video Game Systems
Video game systems can be a contributing factor to our kids becoming less active. It is difficult for kids to move away from technology altogether so why not make it work for us? Video game systems have games available for purchase that are fitness/exercise oriented in which the person becomes the game controller.
For example, the Wii game system has: Just Dance 2016, EA Sports Active 2, and EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp. Similar game systems like the Xbox have the following games: Xbox Fitness, Nike Kinect Training, or Playfit. Lastly, the PlayStation has games like: Move Fitness, Zumba Fitness, and Sports Champions. These games use the person’s movement as a way to control the game. So, by dancing and moving you can get your kiddos to burn some calories while having fun.
Helping your teenager stay physically active and healthy
Your adolescent is getting taller, eating more, and gaining weight. It happens parents, our kids grow and eat more while moving less. Between school and therapies who has time for the gym, right? Well, unfortunately, we tend to place fitness in the back burner when in reality it should be in the forefront.
Our health should have as much importance to us as education or physical therapy or speech therapy. Adolescence is a great time to begin incorporating health and fitness and I will be discussing some quick pointers to help with that transition.
Fidgeting is a common result of excess energy in children and can interfere with positive behaviors. Excess energy and fidgeting can be distracting and disrupt learning. According to an article on Autism Speaks, by Geraldine Dawson and Michael Rosanoff, “Increased aerobic exercise can significantly decrease the frequency of negative, self-stimulating behaviors that are common among individuals with autism, while not decreasing other positive behaviors.” Exercise is a positive outlet for children exhibiting these behaviors.
Physical activity will release some of this energy and in turn, promote positive behavior. Lack of time is a common barrier to fitness with therapy sessions, school, and doctor visits. To help facilitate this we have come up with some ideas for fun exercising regardless of a busy schedule. We have provided different options based on various children’s interests, in order to keep them fully engaged, as well as different variations depending on the level of comprehension in each child.
For those children interested in sports, you can set up “routes” or “bases” with cones for the children to run around.
At the end of each course, you can leave a football, baseball, or soccer ball for them to throw or kick to you. If your child comprehends and reads numbers well, you can label each cone and call out which number for them to run to.
Otherwise, you can use flashcards to label each cone, and you can hold up the matching card that you want them to run to. This will add some cognitive thinking to the exercise. Have them run these routes for about 30 minutes or until you feel they have released all their excess energy.
Especially in the summertime, some children might enjoy water sports or games. Water gun tag is an easy way to get the children involved in playtime outside to shed some energy. You can utilize a similar labeling system as the sport ideas mentioned above, but feel free to switch it up a bit and use some pool noodles or other water toys for them to run to.
You can incorporate colors to help the children engage in their visual senses. Motivate the kids to run to the next cone or noodle so they can get a nice and refreshing spray of water or spray you and any siblings with water. Again, play for around 30 minutes or until fatigued.
For children who enjoy a challenge, you can set up a fun obstacle course for them to run through.
If you live in Bexar or Comal county in Texas, and have a child with a developmental disability, this is a must read from Alfred Chavira, the Director of Health and Wellness Programs for the Any Baby Can organization.
Introducing “Any Body Can” health and wellness program, offering the entire family a fitness/nutrition program too good to pass up! If you do not live in the south-central Texas region, inquire about similar programs in your area. Here are the details, along with downloadable flyers containing more information.
Any Body Can is a 3 month exercise and nutrition program designed specifically for people with unique learning abilities. We strive to promote nutrition education, physical fitness, & inclusion of individuals diagnosed with developmental disabilities through the offerings of recreational fitness, fitness exploration, nutrition education, and family involvement.