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National Autism Awareness Month – National Autism Awareness Month: Incorporating Exercise

National Autism Awareness Month: Incorporating Exercise

April is an important month for many reasons. For instance, April is National Autism Awareness Month! This month of awareness promotes inclusion, self-determination, and celebration. One in 68 children in America are on the spectrum; take part in this month by donating, promoting, or recognizing. At the Harrisburg Area YMCA, we aim for our children and members to feel taken care of and supported, whether through fitness, crafts, or other methods of wellness.

Parents with autistic children realize all the types of specialized care their children can receive.  It’s not atypical that exercise is not included in that list. Many children with autism have poor motor skills, which can be helped by the steady practice of exercise. Celebrate National Autism Awareness Month by applauding your child’s energy and charisma through fitness. Studies show that daily physical activity can help reduce aggression and hyperactivity often seen in autistic children. Full-body exercises are recommended, as they increase coordination, strength, and body awareness!

Those who struggle with introducing their child to new activities may find that doing so in a calm and nurturing environment can prove helpful. Loud noises and open spaces can be triggering to many autistic children; to avoid outbursts, preparing your child for what to expect is key. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Cater to naturally short attention spans. Avoid long periods with the same activity and outfit the activities to your child’s specific wants and needs. In reference to Healthline, these exercises are the most beneficial to children with autism:

Star Jumps

Jumping jacks for the young at heart: your child should embrace star jumps! They are a type of calisthenics-style exercise that helps achieve the grace of movement without the need for equipment. Star jumps can help increase bone mass, strengthen the body, and improve your child’s body awareness.

Arm Circles

According to Healthline, “In a study published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, the authors found that [arm circle] movements similar to those exhibited by those with autism may help provide needed feedback to the body. This may reduce repetitive behaviors such as arm flapping or clapping.” Your child can greatly improve their flexibility and strength with this exercise without the need for any equipment.

Bear Crawls

Bear crawls are a sillier exercise, often giving children an outlet for their creativity. This exercise can help improve coordination, motor planning, and strength!

According to a study from Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 79% of children with autism have movement impairments. These impairments can worsen with an inactive lifestyle; meaning, physical activity may not only decrease the likelihood of these behaviors worsening, but they can greatly improve your child’s quality of life. We think everyone should celebrate and recognize National Autism Awareness Month; it starts with you!

To make sure that these exercises would be beneficial, please consult with a doctor before introducing them to your child.

 

–Madeline Kelly, Digital Communications Coordinator

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