The key to helping your unique learner “do better” in the New Year is movement. The following strategies will show you how to use movement that will help your child and will feel like a fun game.

Some exercises will be more enjoyable for younger children than older and vice versa. Observe what your unique learner does naturally and what exercises he or she enjoys.

Use that information to choose exercises to focus on. For example, one young girl with autism frequently will move her body forward and backward, as if she is vigorously rocking in a rocking chair. This hints that this child will benefit from vestibular exercises, in particular, especially things like rocking or swinging, since that is what she is naturally seeking.

It is important to remember that your unique learner should view these activities as fun and games, not chores that need to be done.

Exercises for the vestibular system:

  • Summersaults
  • Swinging
  • Wobble boards
  • Rolling on the floor or down a hill
  • Crawling
  • Yoga
  • Martial arts
  • Swimming
  • Horseback riding
  • Balancing on an exercise ball.

Exercises for the proprioceptive system:

  • Marching with pounding feet
    • Pretending to be in a marching band or a toy soldier are fun games that can incorporate marching.
  • Helping with heavy chores
    • Washing the car, raking or sweeping, vacuuming are good examples.
  • Wall, chair or floor pushups
    • Start small and slow, they aren’t trying out for the Olympics
  • Tossing a weighted bean bag
    • This requires a gentle partner and a ball or beanbag weight appropriate to the age of the child (big brother might not be the best tossing partner).
  • Seated chair pressups
    • These are done by sitting on a chair and placing your hands beside you flat on the chair, then lifting your bottom off the chair with your hands.
  • Hugs
    • Children can hug themselves by crossing arms and squeeze their own torso, but plenty of squeezes from mom or dad are good in more ways than one.
  • Make a sandwich
    • No, not the eating kind – play a game where the child lays on the ground between two cushions. Gently “roll” the cushions on your child, pretending to be squishing the cheese into the right spot.
  • Pushing or carrying something heavy
    • This should be heavy enough that they have to work to carry it, but not so heavy as to hurt themselves. This could be pushing a chair or a grocery cart. Carrying could involve helping bring groceries in, moving rocks in the yard, or carrying a milk jug.

Feel free to be creative in making up games or exercises of your own. What you are trying to accomplish is the movement that allows the body to feel the earth’s gravitational pull or activities that help develop a strong awareness of the body, arms, and legs.

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