We have a personal training client who is autistic. She is 15 years old and has a weight management issue (which is being address with an RD) but no physical limitations (a slight pronation with the feet). The degree of her autism is classified as "high functioning autism." Do you have any information on training autistic people?
There is little research information on Autism and physical education. There are several MDs that have published different types of information on the levels of Autistic severity. You have stated that your client is "highly functional." There seems to be many definitions of highly functional and responsive.
What I can suggest from what the research offers is making sure her medication does not adversely react to physical work. Isabelle Rapin published a heavy piece of research on Autism and the levels of function in the New England Journal of Medicine (vol.337 no.21.1997). Her work suggests the abilities of Autistic people to adapt to life situations varies greatly, but no matter what degree of adaptation takes place, they will always be Autistic. Some of the people show progress in learning but have very little creative growth. Applying this information to your training may mean retention problems and a safety issue when unattended.
I am unsure of the amount of environmental stimulation she will be hearing in the gym setting (i.e., the plates and machines, music and talking) and how it will impact her social control. It seems that even high functioning people have mal adaptive, social-related issues. Again, applying that to your training would suggest working out when the gym is not crowded and stick to using machine-related equipment to decrease injury potential.
I would suggest talking with her MD and ask if her medication dynamics will change with exercise.
- Cook,E. et al. The serrotonin system in autism. Current Opinions in Pediatric Medicine.1996
- Greenspan,S. et al. Developmental patterns and outcomes in infants and children with disorders in relating and communication; the autistic spectrum. Journal of Developmental Learning Disorders vol.1,no1,pp80-122.1997