I’m an Adapted Physical Specialist. I work with severely disabled students 6 to 22. Some of the most challenging students are the autistic spectrum students. There’s not a lot of information for parent’s about physical education and autism so I thought I’d put some of my ideas and experience out into the Internet.
Cardio: They need physical activity just like all people. If nothing else, walking 30 minutes a day is a must. I think the longer the walk the better. Going up hills and different terrain can be a challenge for them…hence it’s good to do. Like all exercise programs start slow and build up gradually.
Many of the student’s can run. Encourage them to run frequently. I like to use school tracks because the surface is safe and tracks are everywhere. It is a habit that can be done throughout their lives.
Strength: Simple body weight exercises are ideal. Try to have a set pattern (push-ups, sit-ups, alternating toe touch, squats). I think it’s important that they get into the habit of doing a routine of movements. Again, I work with low functioning students. Your child may be able to do a lot more challenging exercises.
I also like to use medicine balls for them to carry. Two to four pounds is best depending on the age. You can find nice soft ones that bounce in most sports stores now. A word of caution about medicine balls. They can be dangerous. An errant toss can break a window. Tossing them back and forth can lead to injuries; theirs and yours.
Balance: I have all my students work on balance. I think it helps calm them down. Walking up, down and across bleachers is ideal. Walking on benches, curbs or anything that is stable and not too high. Standing on one foot is another good exercise.
Flexibility: I don’t do flexibility with the kids. Most have fairly loose joints to begin with.
Games and Sports: There are organized sports available for autistic children though this is an area which needs to be developed and expanded upon. Some of the AYSO teams have special soccer programs.
The simplest part of any game is learning to wait and take turns. The next step is to interact with another student. Passing a ball or kicking back and forth is ideal.
It would take a book to go into all the details of games and activities. Sadly, there isn’t even a lot of information out there for professionals. We are still learning one day, one student at a time.