Five Fitness Facts for a Fitter Fall
3) Intermittent Activity:
I’m a definite advocate of exercise and movement throughout the day. Not just “stand up and stretch” or “draw a W with your index finger,” but throwing a soft medicine ball around the classroom and then adding a balloon to the mix. Or hops. Or keeping a nice long rope in the corner of the room and having the students take turns swinging it. Call it “alternative” or “inappropriate” and then try to argue with the neuroscience that completely supports doing these sort of things for increased cognitive skills and behavior regulation.
4) Social Skills through Movement:
One of the coolest things I ever got to do professionally was collaborate with the school speech pathologist on a program we called “Speech Gym.” The high-school aged students performed a variety of fitness activities and games, then the Speech pathologist reviewed what they did, whom they interacted with, and what types of social instances took place. You want to develop real, meaningful, quality socialization? Have two students call out which medicine ball throw to perform next (push, scoop, overhead), how their partner should get from the blue cone to the red cone 10 feet away (bear walk, crab walk, frog hop).
5) Set Goals:
If, as I constantly rant about (and am so completely right about), physical fitness and active play are as important as other academic, social, life, and vocational skills, set goals. I developed the PAC Profile as a template for schools to develop, re-develop, or completely overhaul their Adaptive PE programs with specific Physical, Adaptive, and Cognitive goals as they relate to fitness and movement abilities. Demonstrating that an individual can now perform a bear walk, scoop throw, and six squats, but demonstrating that they are motivated to do them is even niftier.
Physical Education is not a secondary scholastic element, but a necessary foundation for all other skills. Think of healthy living as a hub around which all other skills can be built. While the process of developing and implementing a good adaptive program in the gym or classroom requires some education, effort, and determination (along with the occasional meltdown), the benefits to students are, potentially, lifelong.
Eric Chessen, M.S., YCS, 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