Very often, we in the autism community seem to focus mostly on food and therapy choices for our kids, but don't spend a lot of time on fitness and exercise unless it has something to do with formal physical therapy. I, on the other hand, am convinced that a full-life approach to issues like this is the most appropriate way to address any issue, not just autism. And exercise, particularly the type of exercise that kids should be getting (mainly play), is a key component of that.
Mark Sisson points out the importance of play in his ten rules of the Primal Blueprint, in rules 2,3,4,6,7, and 10. Obviously he states it overtly in #6, simply "Play." But those other rules all have to do with promoting HOW kids play and what they get out of it. Move slowly frequently, lift heavy things occasionally, sprint sometimes, get some sunlight, and use your mind all come from play, especially for kids. And it's a huge component of his new book, The Primal Connection.
And what's more, I think it's important with all kids (not just the autistic ones) to expose them to a lot of different kind of stuff and ways to play. I don't worry much about my kids getting exercise, because our family is so fitness-oriented, but I do worry sometimes about them getting pigeonholed - particularly in Duncan's case. I think that the more autistic kids get to deal with new stuff, the more they'll be able to adapt to it (even if sensory triggers set them off with it on occasion). Granted, I understand that this needs to be scaled for each child's sensory needs and abilities, but in our case it's easier than for some.
I'm preaching to the choir here, but I truly believe that our bodies need to be treated as a system. We have a dangerous tendency in our country to 1) attack symptoms and not root causes of issues; and 2) to look for a silver bullet to solve an entire problem at once. Learning to move properly as MovNat espouses can only help to set up better neurological signaling from throughout the body, creating the bodily awareness that neurotypical kids take for granted but that many autistic kids are sorely lacking. And getting healthy signalling from the body can only help create healthier processing in the brain itself.
So when we received an invitation from MovNat Ohio to join them for a family training session as they assessed their program and how it might serve the autism community, we jumped at the chance! I've been infatuated with MovNat since I first saw Erwan Le Corre's "The Workout the World Forgot" video, and one of my personal resolutions for the year was to take as much advantage of MovNat as I can (having the world's first MovNat-certified gym in your area sure makes that easier!).
The session went beautifully. I'll defer to MovNat-certified trainer Lori Crock and her recap of the session on their blog for a description and some pictures. But I'm pleased to say that there's a gym in town that not only views things the same way as I do, but that is showing a wonderful open-mindedness about how their already-fine program can benefit a group of people that frequently get overlooked in the fitness community.
I'm also going to point out another facet to this that Lori mentions: MovNat can "teach" us how to play with our kids again. Too often we defer to toys, and movies, and such when we look for quality time with our families. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it's not the sole focus of how we interact with the ones we love! Lots of articles are coming out of late about the importance of roughhousing with our kids, particularly at an early age. But that's not just a benefit for the kids and their development - it's important for the parents as well!
Think of the idea that the best way to learn something is to have to teach it to someone else. If we're passing on our knowledge of the world (at all levels, not just intellectual levels) to our kids, at some point we're building our own understanding of it. And that can do nothing but make us better people as well.
I look forward to working with Lori and fellow trainer Jeff Turner more as we move forward in life and with our fitness goals - not just for ourselves, but for both our kids as well!
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