Get Moving

A single parent of a pre-teen girl diagnosed with autism asked for some ideas for encouraging her youngster to get some exercise. The young lady is a bit self-absorbed and rarely initiates action, but usually follows directions from her mom rather mechanically. “I just need some ideas for helping her get moving around the house,” said the mom. “I’m usually bushed at the end of the day.”

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SPECIFIC STRATEGY Many parents are usually so worn out from taking care of the myriad of details in the lives of their youngsters with autism that they can’t even stand the thought of exercise for themselves, much less for their youngster. But health, stamina, and attitude all depend on REGULAR exercise. Here are some ideas that come to mind for getting some exercise around the house.
+ WALK. Plan to take a walk with your child every day – just stroll down the street, stop for a walk in the park on the way home from the store, or browse through WalMart. If nothing else, walk out to get the mail and newspaper together every day. + WORK. Have your child help around the house every single day. Select activities that require bending, lifting, reaching, and carrying things independently or with some help. Remember that perfection is not the goal here, so don’t be critical of the quality of work. You could have your daughter carry unbreakable items in from the car, carry laundry basket to washing machine and back, push the vacuum around, roll the garbage can to the curb, go out to get the newspaper, feed and water the dog, water the plants, put the newspaper in the trash, put her clothes away, or clean the bathroom mirror. You can even have her swiff the kitchen floor, then push a slightly damp mop around. The floor will get a bit cleaner, and she will get a bit of exercise.
+ FOLLOW THE LEADER. Put on John Phillip Sousa’s march “Stars and Stripes Forever” march around the house or march in place while brushing your teeth together. Play music from Tschaikovsky’s “Nutcracker,” give your daughter a scarf, and encourage her to imitate your “ballerina moves.” Put on Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” and encourage your daughter to play “follow the leader” as you move around the house – lifting knees high, moving arms up high and down low, twisting your trunk, and, getting the best exercise of all: LAUGHING!
The goal here is to move – just 4 or 5 minutes an hour – just use any excuse to get moving. Both of you will feel better for it.

NOTE TO LISTENERS AND READERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. You can click on a button to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solutions. Check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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