As the Residential Program Director for Southwind Fields, I work with young adults who are moving out and trying to live independently for the first time.
Part of living independently is learning to eat healthy and exercise. It is a challenge to convince a young adult to exercise and eat healthy when this was never the focus growing up.
“Since people on the spectrum tend to be sedentary, it’s no surprise that they are also overweight.”
Dr. Jim Ball chairman of the Autism Society of America.
For our clients we establish a daily routine and use motivation and encouragement for them to follow it until it becomes habit.
- We wake up
- Next we eat
- Then we shower
- After, we brush out teeth
- Then we get dressed
- Walk or go workout for at least thirty minutes
- Drink 8 glasses of water throughout the day
- Plan meals ahead of time
We teach them to set timers on their phones to help follow the schedule. Ideally this should start at home at a young age.
This sounds like a great idea but as with all people sometimes you wake up and give yourself excuses like: my stomach hurts, it’s too cold or it’s too hot or the ultimate excuse, “I’m tired”.
Now we work with adults to join fitness clubs with trainers who understand not only Autism but the lifestyle the individual has chosen as a child, teen, and now as an adult.
Second, we have incorporated joining Special Olympics because many individuals love the competition.
I also encourage individuals by not taking them on an outing or out to buy a game unless I have seen them and worked out with them for a minimum of thirty minutes a couple of times a week.
Many of our individuals, like a lot of kids today, are addicted to their phones and video games and don’t care about improving their physical health. At that age they don’t really understand the importance. They do like verbal praise from their parents or circle of friends, so praise and encouragement is very important. Tangible rewards are important so find out what motivates your child.
Workout buddies are a fantastic way to be held accountable, so find a friend that needs to or wants to work out also.
As with everyone, living a healthy lifestyle is of the utmost importance. If you’ve ever heard Temple Grandin speak she will tell you that video games should be banned. I don’t know that I would go to that extreme, but our children’s sedentary lifestyle needs to be limited for their own well-being.
“You have to keep autistic children engaged with the world.You cannot let them tune out”
Southwind Fields Program Director