With all of the different research being done on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), parents of children with this condition are finding more and more resources they can rely on to help their children. This includes finding and utilizing different exercises for children. Here’s what every parent should know.
Exercises For Children With Autism
Physical exercise is a great way for children with autism to get extra energy out and learn to be more in-tune with their bodies. Exercise in general is good for children with autism because it can lead to a healthier and more active lifestyle, and helps children learn to better engage with themselves and their environment.
The right exercises, including full-body exercises can also help increase strength, coordination, endurance and overall body awareness. This may also help autistic children who are otherwise sedentary get active and maintain a healthy weight.
While any type of exercise can be beneficial to a child with ASD, there are a few specific moves that can be specifically helpful for children on the spectrum.
Here are some of the most popular exercises for kids with autism that parents can start teaching their little ones today.
Bear crawls are a fun exercise for children of all ages and will help kids with autism develop body awareness, and improve coordination and motor planning, which are all valuable for children with ASD. These exercises also help build strength in the trunk and upper body.
Here’s how to perform bear crawls.
- Start by kneeling on all fours, with hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips.
- Extend the legs until slightly bent. Spread the fingers wide to have optimal contact with the floor.
- Walk using the feet and hands across the floor approximately 10-20 feet.
- Maintain this position and walk backward in the same fashion.
If the movement is too difficult for children with autism, then parents can help by holding the core and offering support with these movements.
Medicine Ball Slams
Throwing weighted objects like medicine balls can increase core strength and balance and help improve coordination, which is essential for children with ASD.
This exercise may also have therapeutic benefits and can stimulate brain centers responsible for short-term memory and is a high-energy exercise that can help children with autism get rid of extra pent-up energy.
Here’s how to perform medicine ball slams.
- Begin in a standing position holding a medicine ball in both hands. It can be any weight, as long as the ball is light enough for the child to pick up and slam down multiple times without hurting themselves.
- Raise the ball up overhead with straight arms.
- Slam the ball down to the ground with as much force as possible.
- Bend at the knees to safely pick up the ball and repeat the movement 10-20 times.
The great thing about this exercise is that kids can use as much or as little force as they want to slam the ball down, meaning it’s simple to make this exercise harder or easier with an adjustment in force.
Jumping tasks are a great full-body exercises that can help get rid of excess energy, improve cardiovascular health, and… they’re a lot of fun!
Star jumps can improve cardiovascular endurance, strengthen the legs and the core, and increase body awareness. Star jumps can be performed anywhere and kids can perform multiple jumps in a row to get lots of extra energy out.
Here’s how to do the fun, full-body, star jump.
- Begin in a squatting position with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms tucked in toward the chest.
- Quickly jump up from squatting, extending arms and legs wide into a star or an ‘x.’
- On landing, return to starting position with arms and legs tucked in.
Repeat for up as many repetitions as safely possible. These “stars” can be done virtually anywhere where there is space, and some kids like to yell fun sayings such as “I’m a star!” when they perform this unique move.
Arm circles are a simple but effective exercise that studies show can help children with ASD, especially those who exhibit stimming behaviors. In a study published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, the authors found that movements similar to those exhibited by autistic people may help provide needed feedback to the body.
This may reduce repetitive behaviors such as arm flapping or clapping. Arm circles are a great upper-body exercise that helps increase flexibility and strength in the shoulders and back. Plus, this exercise can be completed without any equipment and anywhere kids want to do them.
Here’s how to perform arm circles.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms by the side.
- Extend arms straight out to the side at shoulder height.
- Start making small circles with the hands, keeping the arms straight.
- Gradually make the circles bigger and bigger, creating movement from the shoulders.
- Repeat 20 times, then repeat in the other direction.
This is an excellent exercise for kids to do when they are exhibiting stemming behavior and an exercise that kids can quickly and easily do throughout the day or when they need to get a little extra energy out.
Autism is typically hallmarked by difficulty interacting with others or difficulty interacting with a specific environment. This is where mirror exercises come in. These aren’t done in front of a mirror but with a partner such as a parent, sibling, or caregiver.
Mirror exercises encourage the child to mimic what another person is doing, which can increase coordination, body awareness, and social skills. Here is the most common mirror exercise activity for children with ASD.
- Have children stand and face a partner, hands by their side.
- Have the partner start making slow movements with their arms. Try starting with circles and progressing to more complex patterns.
- When ready, have your child mimic their partner’s movement as if they were looking at themselves in a mirror. For example, if they raise their right arm, your child should raise their left arm.
- Try lightly touching hands for added feedback.
Continue this exercise for 1-2 minutes. Over time, start incorporating different body parts and repeat.
Exercises such as the ones mentioned above can be used on their own or all together to help children with autism develop important skills they need to be their best. All parents need to do is start teaching these exercises to their children to see first-hand what the right exercises can deliver.
If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.
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