Everyday children should be participating in some sort of physical activity. To this day about 30% of children in America are obese. And because children with autism are factored into this number there should not be an excuse to treat these children differently or not encourage physical activity upon them as well as healthy eating.
Most parents and families struggle when having a child with autism; our job is to help motivate the child to become physically active. Because these families think that eating is one thing their child enjoys, they let them eat whatever they want, including fast food or unhealthy foods. As much as today's life is "rushed" all children should consume healthy and prepared home cooked foods (which contain less calories) as well.
Eating properly is only one aspect added to the number of obese children in America. Another aspect is physical activity and this begins in physical education class. In order to help prevent this number from increasing, we as physical educators must promote physical activity in all children. We can do this by getting children moving. Not only in class but at home as well. This country revolves around electronics and technology. To make time for our children to play outside instead of with video games or watching television is key in promoting physical activity. Activity in physical education is a great way to get children moving all the while having fun.
There are many different keys as to how to teach students with autism. While teaching we should avoid long periods with the same activity. This method of teaching is called task variation method. We want all our activities to be short because children with autism have a short attention span and we want them focused throughout the entire activity we are teaching as much as possible. This method will help increase the attention and retention of practiced skills and activities.
Students with autism can also adjust to their teachers or peer teachers (students who assist students who need extra help). Once they are more comfortable with their teacher's, students with autism might show more emotions and enthusiasm with what they are doing. As the time of learning progresses, students can become more reactive and cooperative, which is our ultimate goal.
Our objective for students with autism is to have them cooperate and interact with others. To do this, taking small steps is best. For example, if the physical educator were teaching a lesson on soccer, it would be best to progress from starting with the soccer ball within a warm-up, flowing to using the ball to kick, pass, dribble, shoot and then eventually create a game like activity. Having students work with partners may be a little difficult for students with autism yet is a very necessary task because we want these students to learn to interact with others. The more partner and group activities are completed, the more the interaction and cooperation we will see with students with autism.
Encouragement and enthusiasm is very important while teaching students with autism. This is because some of these students will not have much emotion when in class, they could be quiet or get very distracted. The best way to keep their attention and is to get them excited to be there in class. If the teacher and/or peer teachers are excited to be there this can catch onto the students. Interacting with the students is another way to keep children with autism excited about physical activity. Some students love high-fives or hugs, which is excellent in terms of interacting with them.
Some other helpful ideas for a physical education class containing children with autism to keep them moving are to include music, visual demonstrations, and creative techniques to increase students with autism participation in physical activities.
Music stimulates a lot of hormones in the body leading to a great feeling for all students. Students with autism love listening to music while being active. There are many different activities that students can cooperate in which encourage physical movement in PE. One example would be conductorsize. This is a new technique that gets students moving their upper arm and entire body while listening to music. During this activity, students can do this by following an instructor or simply on his or her own. Each student will have two (lummi) sticks, which they will use while pretending they are conductors of a band. They will move and conduct freely to the beat of music, which is very fun and entertaining for students with autism.
Visual demonstrations will definitely help students with autism to understand the activity or rules. A perfect example would be the proper way to pass and trap the soccer ball. You can even give out specific cues that will help students remember the correct form such as, inside of foot, kick, toe (to trap the ball). These cues are simple and straight forward so many students can remember and focus on key points to kick and trap the soccer ball as they see you demonstrating the cues.
The last idea is to stay creative; we want to make these children enjoy and benefit from physical activity. To do this we need to make our activities fun, short and entertaining for the children. These different keys will help benefit physical activity, which in the long run could potentially decrease the obesity in children with autism.