Spectrum SKILLZ – PHYSICAL development of children in the spectrum
As defined by the American Psychiatric Association, “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental condition that includes enduring challenges in terms of social interaction, speech and non-verbal communication, and restricted / repetitive behavior.” And while this is at the heart of ASD, the considerable difficulties faced by some with ASD with regard to movement and motor planning are often overlooked.
In the early years, children with ASD are usually delayed in gross motor development by about 6 months compared with their peers without ASD. As children grow older, physical challenges become more apparent when it comes to fitness and sports. They usually have poor muscle strength, coordination, balance, and endurance. For this reason, many parents hesitate to enroll their child in physical activity. And while this may be difficult for a child at first, the benefits far outweigh the problems associated with a seated, isolated lifestyle.
The key to successfully improving motor skills is finding a program that is specifically designed for children with ASD with this goal in mind. As most programs only focus on the social problems associated with ASD, it is very difficult to find resources that also deal with physical problems. And while there are programs and sports that work to involve these kids, it can be overwhelming for them as they often have sensory issues and difficulty processing complex rules.
To provide another resource for children with ASD, the Spectrum SKILLZ program was developed to provide them with specially designed activities to focus on better attention and social skills. An additional physical benefit comes from using elements of traditional martial arts curricula to develop skills appropriate for these children.
In addition, instructors are also trained to understand the needs of children with ASD so that they can better communicate with and reach out to them. Instructors also present the rules in an easy-to-follow format and physically demonstrate it to the class. This helps students process the rules and see exactly what is expected.
One of the many exercises in this program is called “Laser Jump”. In this exercise, the instructor uses foam noodles to move it along the ground at different speeds. Students are asked to jump over the noodles with both feet at once, raise their knees and jump, even when they get tired. This exercise helps build endurance and strength in your legs.
As you can see, the Spectrum SKILLZ program is an innovative method of working with children with ASD. Not only does it solve common ASD problems, such as a lack of social, communication, and processing skills, it also solves the problem of a lack of basic motor skills. This means that children will learn and grow at a pace that is fun and meets their needs, while also being challenging enough to support development.