Welcome to your weekly Tips from the Team. We’ll be bringing you information from knowledgeable writers on a range of subjects including biomedical treatments, nutrition, advocacy, safety and more—information you can use to improve the quality of life for both your child and yourself.
The Exercise Connection
In addition to complementing various autism therapies, the benefits—both physical and emotional—from an exercise program cannot be overstated…

By David S. Geslak, BS, ACSM-HFS 

I first met Brody at his home when he was 10 years old. He had classic autism characteristics: he was a toe walker, “stimmed,” and had limited verbal abilities. As he tip-toed around his dining room table, I greeted him by saying, “Hi.”
I was taken aback by his response, “No more doctors.”
Now, I was at a loss for words. Unintentionally I responded, “I am not a doctor, I’m a coach….Coach Dave.”
Brody’s statement made me realize that our children eventually get tired of doctors, clinics, and therapists—just like we do.
One can assume the word therapy indicates something is wrong, which in turn means that something must be fixed. There is no doubt that children or adults on the autism spectrum face physical and cognitive challenges, but approaching them as broken is not how I, and you, will experience breakthroughs with exercise.
One of the most common questions I have had from parents over the past ten years has been, “My child has been out of OT and PT for years and he is starting to gain weight. How do I get him moving?” There are a variety of answers to that as we all know that our children are unique and a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work—not just for exercise but any therapy or treatment you may try.
If you want to maintain your children’s weight, help them lose weight, and have them live a healthy and active lifestyle, they need exercise. You (or your child’s professionals) should be teaching exercise just like everything else they are learning. Yes, exercise is that important.
Just like everything in life, if we make something a part of our routine, we are more willing to continue with it. This ideology holds true with exercise for our children.
While exercise doesn’t replace OT and PT, having an exercise session can help achieve goals set in both. But possibly the most important reason for having an exercise session or gym class is the opportunity to bring normalcy into your child’s life. Your child wants that, whether they can say it or not. We all do, in some way, shape or form.
I think this is what Brody was trying to tell me the first day I met him. And because he did, Brody will forever be the reason I am called “Coach.”
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David S. Geslak, founder of the Exercise Connection (EC), is widely recognized for the pioneering of structured visual exercise programs, as well as his insightful and dynamic presentations. Dave has experience as a para-educator and was a Fitness Coordinator at Giant Steps, a school for children with autism. He is an author, advocate, hosts a TV Show “Coach Dave” on The Autism Channel, and trains parents and professionals across the world on his protocols. He employs individuals with autism at the EC and is developing the first employment program, incorporating exercise, within Hart Schaffner Marx, a company in Chicago. The autism community has enthusiastically embraced Dave’s message and is especially encouraged by his results.

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