FOCUS Center for Autism is dedicated to addressing the critical needs of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Families with children on the Autism Spectrum often feel lost when confronting challenges related to their physical and mental health. Their complex needs can interfere with their ability to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. A study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal reports some troubling statistics regarding the health of children on the Autism Spectrum. They found:
- 31% of adolescents with Autism are obese
- Adolescents with Autism are two times as likely to be obese than adolescents without developmental disabilities
FOCUS and UNICO: Partnering for Healthy Living
In April, UNICO National granted FOCUS $1,900 to fund a healthy living program that is engaging children in activities that promote an active and healthy lifestyle. The importance of this grant cannot be emphasized enough. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, exercise can be a significant component to their overall well-being. According to WebMD, exercise is known to reduce stress and increase brain function. More importantly, exercise is an excellent way to socialize with peers! By following a regular exercise program, children are able to participate in structured activities and further develop their social skills.
Since the grant was awarded in April, our children have made great strides towards being more active! With an increased variety of outdoor supplies, they have learned how to play new games at their own pace and have participated more frequently in games they already know. They have also developed skills in teamwork and sportsmanship!
Staying Active in the Winter
The cold winter months can make maintaining an active lifestyle a challenge. However, it also provides opportunities for healthy fun! At FOCUS, we allow our children to play outside before and after their therapeutic activities if it is safe to do so. They will often play basketball or swing with their peers!
Outside of FOCUS, there are many great activities you can participate in during the winter:
- Our friends at Autism Families CONNECTicut have two programs that help children on the Autism Spectrum stay active. Their “Running on the Spectrum” program at Star Hill Family Athletic Center in Tolland provides a safe, entertaining environment for children ages 5-18 to exercise! This program is held on Sundays from 11-11:45 AM beginning January 5. Their other program, “Playing on the Spectrum“, teaches children ages 3-13 various game forms while integrating play, sensory, and social skills! This program is offered through West Hartford’s Human and Leisure Services, and runs for four Sundays in January.
- As mentioned in our previous blog, “Sensory Suggestions for the Holidays“, Ski Sundown has ski and snowboard lessons specifically for individuals with special needs.
- Use your local resources! Check with your local Parks and Recreation department, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, or ARC to see what activities they offer for youth on the Autism Spectrum. You can also scope out your local parks for a nice sledding hill or walking trail!
- Physical activity doesn’t have to be expensive. Your child can get great exercise right in your own home! Have them help shovel the snow, go sledding, or build a snowman outside. If it’s too cold, your child can amuse themselves with a few rounds of Just Dance or Wii Sports Resort!
We hope these suggestions will help you make a happy and healthy start to 2015! If you have any to add, leave a comment on our blog!