Reposted from Our Journey Thru Autism

Children with autism spectrum disorders often have movement as a strength. Perhaps the child cannot talk or doesn’t know how to initiate play with a peer, but they can typically walk down the block and climb the monkey bars. We’re not talking about the quality, variety, or skill level of movement because children with ASD often have significant deficits in these aspects of movement. We are so often focusing on what children with developmental disabilities can’t do and coming up with strategies to improve these areas. What if we flip it and and look at their strengths. If we have identified movement as a strength, then how can we USE that strength to help a child learn, have fun and engage in social interactions.

Ideas to use movement to enhance overall development:

1. Fast movement increases alertness and slow rhythmic movement is calming so take advantage of this. Jump on the bed or dance to some music first thing in the morning to wake up, do 10 jumping jacks before sitting down to do homework, or do some swinging after school to decompress from the day.

2. Kinesthetic learning: combine concepts like up/down/in front/behind with movement, teach letters and shapes by drawing them in shaving cream or foam soap and learn body parts while touching the skin with different textures.

3. To learn to follow multi-step directions, practice obstacle courses. Start with two steps and increase from there. Cue the child by asking “What is next?” if they have difficulty, rather than telling them what to do next.

4. Do an activity as a family that centers around movement, such as going for a hike. See what natural language, sensory and social experiences grow from this.

Above are just a few ideas to use movement to enhance overall development. What if we identify our children’s strengths and spend some time focusing on them? We do this all the time with typically developing children- a child who shows a talent in art or music will pursue those interests. The balance between therapeutic time and the overall picture of a child’s daily life is a tricky one for parents, but the effects of this refocus could be very much worth the effort.

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