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"Effective Techniques for Teaching Children with Autism: 3 Essential Elements"

Three simple, evidence-based teaching strategies to help children with autism through exercise.

According to the National Survey of Autism Treatment Effectiveness, parents of children with autism consider exercise as the most effective treatment for their children. Studies have shown that exercise can enhance language development and academic skills and improve on-task behaviors while reducing maladaptive behaviors. A 2017 study by Rutgers University (Olin et al., 2017) revealed that 10 minutes of low-intensity exercise could reduce autism-related behaviors such as echolalia (repetitive verbal phrases or words) and hand-flapping.


Health and fitness professionals working in these environments need help teaching the community despite the incredible results achieved. The main reason behind this struggle is that trainers are not informed or prepared with the knowledge and teachings that are continuously being proven as the most effective methods to treat these populations.



When engaging individuals with autism in any new routine, such as an exercise routine, it is essential to be patient and creative and use visual supports or pictures.

Visual supports can help provide the children with a better understanding of the exercises of the program, routine, and structure that children with autism need to successfully carry out their daily activities.

When implemented correctly, visual supports allow individuals with autism to have the freedom to engage in life, regardless of their impairment.

So, you know the expression, "A photo is worth a thousand words." This is one of the times where this holds true, especially for people with autism. They may find it difficult to understand verbal instructions but can better connect with the exercise when shown a picture. Therefore, replacing or reducing verbal instructions with pictures can make a significant difference.


#2 Exercise is a must when it comes to integrating it into their routine.


Individuals on the autism spectrum can benefit significantly by following a structured schedule from the moment they wake up. This is similar to the routines many of us follow, such as setting our alarm clock, washing our faces, having breakfast, and heading to work. The only difference is that someone with autism may use visual aids to guide them through each activity. Structure and routine are crucial for keeping many individuals with autism on task in daily living and school, and it is also essential to implement these principles in an exercise routine.

It is crucial to thoughtfully integrate an exercise program into one's daily or weekly routine. For instance, the day does not typically end once school is over. Many people attend various therapy sessions throughout the week for additional assistance. It is essential to enlighten parents that even one weekly exercise session can be valuable. To get started, have the family or individual choose one specific day and time per week and stick to it without changing.

#3 It is not about being 100% perfect but consistency and persistence is key


One of the critical responsibilities of a personal trainer is to ensure that their clients are using the correct form while exercising. However, when a client is using improper form, it is common for trainers to use words like "no" or "try again" to correct them. Unfortunately, individuals with autism have heard these words frequently, especially in schools. Therefore, trainers need to make exercise a positive experience for their clients.

Research suggests most people should engage in 30- 60 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per day and anywhere from 8-20 repetitions of resistance exercise per muscle group. While these guidelines are realistic for most people, they may not be suitable for individuals with autism. Therefore, it is recommended to start clients off slowly, engaging them in just a few exercises for shorter periods. For example, a client with autism may only engage in 3-8 minutes of aerobic activity and 1-2 muscular or flexibility exercises for 2-8 repetitions.

Suppose you encourage your client to participate in an exercise activity, even if it's just for four minutes or six repetitions. In that case, it's an achievement for everyone involved, including the client, you, and their parents. While it's essential to increase the time of physical activity slowly, it's also important to remember that the client is just getting started. Your primary focus should be building a solid connection with the client rather than complaining about their form, as long as they are not putting themselves in danger.





My name is Steven Goldstein

With over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry, I have worked with clients of all ages and fitness levels. From professional athletes to individuals aiming to lose weight, I have helped countless people achieve their goals and improve their overall health through customized training and nutrition plans.

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Consistency leaves clues

Hundreds of clients of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities have put their health in our hands over the years and achieved truly remarkable results. 

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