The New Year is here! It’s a great time to create healthy habits and make sure your child with autism is getting enough exercise – even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why Is Exercise Important to Your Child With Autism?
Our brains need physical activity to remain healthy!!
Without enough exercise, you may notice that your child demonstrates increased irritability. You may also notice a decrease in concentration and focus. Moderate exercise for at least 20 minutes has been shown to increase the ability to focus and learn in the few hours after.
Exercise promotes better sleep!!
All children need to sleep well. During these challenging times, schedules may be off. People are stressed. Coping skills may not be as sharp. Exercise helps with both falling asleep and staying asleep.
Here are some tips for encouraging exercise at home:
Make physical exercise a part of the daily routine!!
Dedicate blocks of time in the morning and afternoon for exercise. If you don’t plan it – it probably won’t happen!
Let your child choose the activity!!
Give your child choices for exercise, both of which would be acceptable. Example: “We are going for a walk. Would you like to walk in the park or in our neighborhood?”
Make it fun!!
Create a list of physical activities that your child enjoys so that exercise never feels like a chore. Tailor the activity list to your child’s interests
Start slowly and build up!!
For children who are not accustomed to regular physical exercise, aim for 20 minutes daily and gradually increase to 60 minute blocks of time – preferably outdoors.
Limit screen time!!
While tablets, computers and television are useful for learning opportunities or as rewards, too much screen time can take away from time spent in active play.
Walk the walk!!
Kids are more likely to exercise when they see their caregivers being active. That doesn’t mean you have to do the same activities as your child, but modeling physical activity is an important motivator for kids. Instead of thinking of exercise as an extra thing you have to do, it can help to think of movement as one of the coping skills we can use to overcome difficulties.
Any exercise is better than none, so don’t worry if your child doesn’t achieve the recommended 60 minutes a day. Be realistic, do your best and have fun!