Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder characterized by impairments in communication, and social interaction as well as repetitive patterns of behavior. It is also the case that individuals with ASD may exhibit difficulties with balance, coordination, stability and speed. These deficits can lead to a less physically active lifestyle, and reduce the opportunity to engage in physical activity. A physical education class is initially intimidating for any individual. Adding sensory sensitivity, communication, and behavioral difficulties, can make a class even more of a challenge. Our job is to create a safe space for these individuals, a class that meets their needs, and facilitates motivation, participation and reinforcement.
The First Step
The design of the program starts off with an evaluation of the students; a benchmark assessment of the overall strengths and weaknesses of the class. This part of the process also includes an introduction to the staff members that work closely with the students. These staff members are essential to providing us as instructors with incite on specific behavior management plans, likes and dislikes of the students. Next, in collaboration with teachers, principals, ect; we create a breakdown of the units that will be covered.
About the Program
A typical class lasts thirty minutes long, and is formatted in a similar fashion every class. The first 5 to 10 minutes consists of a warm up. The warm up includes laps around the gym and then a stretch. Depending on the ability of the students, the laps can include walking forwards, backwards, running, walking sideways, skipping, and hopping. The stretch starts simple, and then is progressively built upon as the student become familiar with the movements.
From there, depending on the specific unit, the class is broken down into stations. For the unit of basketball, the class would be broken down into four sections. The first would be passing with a partner. This includes overhead, chest, and bounce passing. Next would be shooting. Students would shoot from different distances, marked off with dot markers for foot placement. The next section would focus on agility. This station can vary week to week, but can include hurdle walks, cone-to-cone shuffles, and agility ladder work. Lastly there would be a fitness station that also varies each week, but includes new exercises that work on core, and upper and lower body strength. These stations would also include visual representation of the activity for students and staffs benefit. This is the format we follow when acquiring new skills about the sport or unit. We will often apply those skills with more of a “game like” format for some classes as well.
At the end of every class, we close with an exit activity. This is a chance for the class to meet as a group, and practice a skill that they learned that day. An example of an exit activity for basketball would be, every student has to do a chest and bounce pass with the instructor and then they are allowed to exit the class.
Every class is designed to meet the accommodations of the students, and can easily be changed or altered if need be. Feedback about the classes from staff and administration is also imperative and encouraged to know how to better assist our students.
“ASD Fitness Center has afforded students in a specialized Autism Program the opportunity to experience a gym class in a smaller, quieter, and more individualized/needs based environment. The class instructors come to each session with a level of enthusiasm and positive energy that is infectious, not only among the students, but also among the staff. After every session, the students leave tired and sweaty, but with smiles on their faces and a sense of pride in their physical accomplishments. I highly recommend ASD Fitness Center, as my experience has been an absolutely positive one.”
– Sebastian Lombardi
E.C. Stevens Elementary School / STARS Program
“I don’t really have words to sum up how much I love ASD Fitness! The staff is incredible and our overall experience was amazing! As a special education teacher for adults, I am always looking for unique opportunities to get out into the community with my students and help them to build self-confidence. ASD Fitness helped us achieve that goal! The staff was so helpful and accommodating. They worked with us as a small group while also meeting the individual needs of each student. I was so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude as I watched each of my students be challenged individually as well as a group! Their faces were filled with the biggest smiles and they each left feeling such a sense of pride. It was truly wonderful! I can’t recommend ASD Fitness enough, and look forward to working with them again in the near future. Thank you, ASD Fitness!!”
– Danielle Ruiz
“The ASD Fitness Staff is amazing! They are highly professional and create unique fitness opportunities to meet a wide range of student needs. Each activity is thoughtfully prepared in advance so there is never any “wait time,” as every moment has been planned to maximize student involvement. ASD Fitness provides students with a wide range of abilities the opportunity to explore and learn new games in a safe and supportive atmosphere. I have been so impressed by this much-needed resource in our community. My students eagerly await their sessions with the ASD Staff!
– Michele Genest
Special Education Teacher , INSPIRE Program