4 Features of Total Fitness: The Foundations of Better Living
4 Features of Total Fitness
“Did you wash your hands really good?”
I inquire suggestively to my 11-year old athlete as he quickly exits the bathroom. “Yes!” is the nearly instantaneous reply. “Okay cool, let me see.” We go back into the bathroom and I observe as he turns on the faucet, misses the liquid soap as it drops to the sink counter, and proceeds to scrub his hands for a total of five seconds, drying them on the towel for nearly a pro-wrestling three-count.
“Let’s slow it down. Pump that soap into your hand. Nice getting the soap. Show me some good scrubbing…” I am not, nor could I possibly be a hypochondriac working with the autism and special needs populations. Having spent over a decade nonchalantly dealing with nearly all bodily fluids (there must be one or two withstanding), I can say that “germaphobe” does not define my outlook. But washing hands after using the bathroom, or rendering a tissue to confetti, is not without significant merit.
There are four concrete pillars upon which optimal health can be built. They are also four pillars that are overlooked, often sailing away in the “We’ll get to that eventually” enchanted canoe. Physical activity, hygiene, nutrition, and sleep are each significant in boosting all the other things we care about; emotional well-being, independence, general/medical health, cognitive functioning, and socialization. As should be tattooed next to my autism puzzle piece motif, there is saying, and then there is doing.
Feature 1: Hygiene
What: I need to change my Autism Fitness intake to ask whether or not the athlete can wash his/her hands. I tend to work on that a lot with my athletes. Similar to movement skills, this often seems the kind of ability that people assume an individual already has. Teaching a student to use the bathroom and then clean up can be a decent challenge in single-digit and early double years. At eighteen it can pose some problems. In addition to any behavior, speech, and motor interventions, teaching independent hygiene skills gets my stamp as a “must” to the best possible ability of the individual.
How: Hygiene skill acquisition is a hands-on process that should have a quick exit strategy (absolutely no pun intended). Hand-over-hand prompting for cleaning routines should be incorporated with fading procedures, moving from the most-to-least effort on the part of the instructor. Here is a recent teaching analysis (TA) I wrote for one of my athletes:
(Continued on page 2)