The Autism Society Event and Education Recordings Archive

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5572 The Exercise Connection: Effective Programming for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, July 8, 2011: 3:15 PM-4:30 PM
Tallahassee 123 (Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center)

This is an active demonstration where you will learn the visual, sensory, tactile and musical supports to have a successful exercise program for children with autism spectrum disorders. Exercise stations will be set up and you will participate as the children do in a 45-minute class. You will also be educated on the Five Components of Physical Fitness for Children with ASD©, developed by the presenter. Be ready to move, learn and have some fun! The Exercise Connection is designed for any person involved with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The primary goal is for parents, educators and physicians to been seen, by the individuals, as leaders in health and fitness. Presenting to the persons of the Autism Society of America National Conference, the goal will be to provide a greater understanding of incorporating visual, tactile, musical and sensory supports in a child or adults exercise program at school, community center or home.

Physical activity offers a variety of benefits for individuals with autism. Studies have shown that when participating in moderate aerobic activity, children with autism may experience increases in attentions span, on-task behavior, and levels of correct responding. Aerobic activities can include but are not limited to walking, running, swimming, jogging and biking. Aerobic activity can also produce endorphins that boost an individual’s mood and give a sense of control and well-being, which could help ease anxiety, depression, and mood swings, which can be common hindrances for children with autism. Also, the more a child is moving, more oxygen is being received by the brain.

The Exercise Connection, while it is often compared to occupational and physical therapy, provides a diverse philosophy, seeing the individuals for their capabilities…not their disabilities. There is no time better than now to teach parents and anyone involved with children with ASD about exercise. The last thing that a family or child needs is an additional diagnosis of obesity, diabetes and/or heart disease.

The Five Components of Physical Fitness for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders was designed by David S. Geslak. The Five Components consist of (1) Body Image (2) Motor Coordination (3) Posture (4) Muscular Fitness (5) Cardiovascular Fitness. Created as means to better educate our children and parents because the current components of health and fitness do not meet the needs of children with ASD or any special need. The Five Components meet the needs of an individual with autism and make implementation of an exercise program manageable.

The main objective, and popularity of this presentation, is the participants will leave with at least one activity to do with their child, teach other instructors, or implement in their school, home or autism center. There will be over 30 exercises demonstrated that use masking tape (cost effective) and all of the exercises will use both sides of the body, which means participants and children are using both sides of the brain!

While this presentation targets physical education teacher primarily, the techniques and ideas used have not only benefited parents but also occupational, physical and speech therapists. David will not only educate the participants but they will also have the opportunity to educate each other, share their stories and exchange ideas.

The Exercise Connection Program and it presentations has been adopted by organizations throughout the United States (Fox Valley Special Recreation, Clare Woods Academy and the Sonya Ansari Center) and most recently with the ADVANCE Center of Cairo, Egypt. When David began as a paraprofessional for Giant Steps, a school for children with autism, where he then designed their first Special Recreation Program. Giant Steps was able to receive a grant and now other organizations, including Clare Woods Academy of Bartlett, Illinois have also financially benefited from this program.

If a school, autism center or family has limited funds, David will teach and educate the people of how exercise can be efficiently and cost-effective taught to the children and adults to reduce maladaptive behaviors, improve their social skills and make physical activity a part of their life.

Learning Objectives:

  •  At the end of the session, participants will be able to identify The Five Components of Physical Fitness for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders ©
  •  At the end of the session, participants will understand the importance of visual supports used in a physical education setting.
  •  At the end of the session, participants will be able to design two exercise stations using masking tape
  •  At the end of the session participants will be able to teach a child with autism, The Pretzel, Calf Stretch and Wall Sit.
  •  At the end of the session, participants will be able to understand their role in leading a child with autism to a physically active lifestyle.

Content Area: Applied Research


David S. Geslak, B.S., CSCS, ACSM-HFS
Autism Fitness Specialist
Exercise Connection Corporation

David S. Geslak is an autism fitness specialist and Founder of Exercise Connection. He is an internationally recognized author and speaker. David shares his passion for exercise with people invested in the autism community and hopes to make exercise a part of each child's, adult's and family member's lifestyle.