Children with autism face many difficulties in their daily lives, including the inability to focus, depression, poor self-control, and hyperactivity. These behavioral problems can last from the time a child is a toddler through adulthood. The physicians at Woodburn Pediatrics know this syndrome is often misunderstood and can be difficult to manage, but recommend exercise as a treatment for autism.
Here are some important factors to consider as you implement an exercise routine for your child.
Research has shown that 20-30 minutes of moderate to strenuous aerobic exercise, 3 to 4 days a week, is one of the best known ways to treat autism. This exercise improves behavior, concentration, and attention; it also reduces outbursts, mouthing, self-injury, destructiveness, and the weight gain that is common for autistic individuals.
Consider Your Child’s Preferences
Children with autism exhibit unique affinities: some love music, some excel at math, and others thrive in the arts. Just as it’s important to recognize and respect your child’s individual capabilities, it’s important to consider his or her unique preferences for exercise.
If your child prefers solitary sports, running on a track is an excellent choice. Likewise, soccer is a great choice for a child who enjoys running, but excels in a team environment. Communicate with your child about their preferences but also encourage them to try new activities and observe which ones they seem most happily engaged in.
Pay to Play
Kids with autism may need some encouragement to exercise and stick to healthy behaviors. Doctors recommend ‘pay to play’, a strategy many parents already use with unenjoyable tasks like homework or chores. Withhold time on the iPad or playing with favorite toys until your child gets his or her daily exercise. It’s a little like having to eat your dinner before your dessert.
Incorporate a Family Routine
Modeling the behavior you want your children to follow is a basic principle of parenthood, and it works wonderfully with autism and exercise. The physicians at Woodburn Pediatrics recommend that families exercise together, not only to benefit the child with autism, but to encourage bonding and lifelong healthy habits.
There are no easy answers to the question of how to treat autism, but exercise is a small piece of the puzzle. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation for your child or to discuss further autism treatment options.