Fitness Gift Guide
Quite possibly I have a bias by filling this article with items that I commonly use in programming. But, as I assure and quite a few of my athletes can attest (verbal or otherwise), fitness can be fun. There are multiple reasons why I’ve chosen each of the four items:
- Universality. Each can be used for many different exercises and activities with individuals or groups
- Scalability. Each can be used with individuals regardless of their current physical abilities, whether very low, very high, or somewhere in-between
- Durability/Quality. Introduce an item to a room full of 14 year-olds and your durability questions will be answered.
- Athlete-approval. These are the items to which my athletes typically gravitate, whether it is to explore on their own or engage in some type of partner activity
Fitness Ropes (Onnit.com)
A giant long rope that you can shake up and down, or jump with? Seems to work every time. Since they tend to be about 20’ in length (once folded in half to make the two ends) you do need some space for these (either indoors or outdoors), but it is entirely worth occasionally moving a table out of the way. In addition to being outstanding for lower body stabilization, the rhythmic swinging of the ropes has a built-in timing and coordination component.
Hyperwear Sandbells (Hyperwear.com)
After years and years of using these soft, weighted discs, I’ve noticed that many of my athletes, when they first (and in some cases still by the five hundredth time), discover the object’s unique property of being both soft and heavy, will place it on their head. This provides some sort of glorious sensory input that, provided it be done safely, I approve. Sandbells can be pressed, thrown, carried, slammed, and used in fitness “obstacle” courses.
Dynamax Medicine Balls (Medicineballs.com)
The medicine ball does not get the respect it deserves. We squat to it. We squat while holding it. We squat to it while holding it. We throw it throw it throw it throw it in the process developing power, reaction time, stability, and, in my experience, new social skills and friends with whom to practice. These medicine balls are a cornerstone in my programming because of their outstanding construction and two sizes, one better for my teen-and-up athletes and one smaller in diameter for my younger ones.
Spending Some Time Exploring Fitness as a Family
The first step towards change is the most difficult. Parents and professionals who have not been regularly engaging in fitness and/or active play with children/students on the spectrum may consider the entire process way too overwhelming. The process has to begin somewhere if any change is to occur. It does not have to be major, and shouldn’t be. Cultivating physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle is something that takes months and years and, eventually, a lifetime of dedication. Relax. Breath. Put a Sandbell on your head. And go forth.
Eric Chessen, M.S., YCS Eric Chessen, M.S. is the creator of the PAC Profile Assessment Toolbox (www.autismfitness.com), PAC Profile Workshop series, and consults with special needs programs around the world. Available on www.autismfitness.com