Autism Fitness @ Home Exercise # 1: Bear Crawls

Here is our first Autism Fitness @ Home exercise. Watch Eric Chessen, founder of Autism Fitness, introduce Autism Fitness with Bear Crawls, then watch the video of me and Henry working together on this exercise. 

I told you our contribution would be a “real life example” and that is most definitely what we see here. Even though it’s a relatively short video, there is a lot to see and learn. We can discuss Henry’s motivation, cognitive state and ability to generalize.

Our athletes are going to be different each time we see them. We assess them physically, cognitively, and adaptively each session, and their levels of performance in each of these areas will vary. 

One goal we have is that the athlete be able to perform the exercise in any setting. This is called generalization. While Henry and I have been working on bear crawls for a year together, this was the first time Henry has done them outside at home. He is used to doing them inside, mostly in the gym, and for the last couple weeks, inside. 

I think Henry is not unusual in that certain settings have different meanings for him. For Henry, going to the gym means he exercises with me, and we have our shared experience. Being outside at home usually means he is free to enjoy his swings or his tractor or jump in the stream wearing all his clothes. While this can mean a greater challenge to attempt Autism Fitness @ Home, it is also an opportunity for growth and generalization.

Assessing physical functioning: Because of his long legs, Henry has difficulty keeping his back flat when doing a bear crawl. Therefore, Henry has been exclusively doing bear holds for a few months. As you see in the video, he is able to keep his back flat when doing a bear hold. I wanted to assess his current level of ability with the bear crawl today, and you can see, he still bridges quite a lot and rotates his hips. That is why I decided to regress to the quadruped crawl, which he is also usually able to do. 

As you saw, he never performs a quadruped crawl, despite my labeling and demonstration, even cueing him to put his knees down. Is this because Henry has suddenly lost the ability to do a quadruped crawl? Of course not. This gives us the opportunity to think about other possible explanations.

Assessing adaptive (motivational) and cognitive functioning: Now you need a little background. Henry’s favorite thing to do outside is ride his tractor. This time of year is when he begins asking when he can get it out of the shed. The answer is always the same: when the ground is dry and the grass comes up. 

We have had two solid days of rain here in NH and Henry has asked me more times than I can count when he can get the tractor out. So it’s no surprise that Henry, finally outside after two solid days of rain, was almost completely focused on assessing the condition of the ground (it was, in his words, “a little wet,” which is not the preferred condition). 

So Henry’s seeming inability to do a quadruped crawl was less about being able to perform the crawl and more about not understanding the direction because he: 1) didn’t watch my demonstration (lack of interest /focus) even though I tried twice, and perhaps 2) not wanting to acknowledge the wet ground by putting his knees down. I can almost guarantee that if we were in the gym on a typical Monday, he would perform the quadruped crawl with ease. Sometimes our athletes will be “all in” and other times we have to be satisfied with getting them to go through the motions. In times like these, we take the wins where we can get them. 

I hope that you learned something from our first videos! Please feel free to comment or ask any questions on the Facebook post! Eric, Henry and I will be back with video number two, Overhead Presses, soon! 

Mae Lynn

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