Autism & Whole Body Movement

Whole Body movement series (part 1)

Incorporating Whole Body Movement in Daily Life for Individuals with Disabilities (Autism)

Physical activity is essential for the overall well-being of every individual, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. For people with disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), engaging in whole body movement activities like walking and other physical exercises can have a profound impact on their physical, mental, and emotional health.

In this blog, I have explored the importance of whole body movement for individuals with disabilities(Autism), with a specific focus on the benefits it provides to autistic individuals. I have also shared a variety of enjoyable and accessible exercises and activities that can be seamlessly integrated into everyone’s daily lives.

The Importance of Whole Body Movement for Individuals with Disabilities, Specifically Autistic Individuals

Individuals with autism may have sensory sensitivities and difficulties in expressing their emotions. Engaging in physical activities can be particularly beneficial for them due to the unique set of challenges they face. For them, incorporating whole body movement into their daily routine can have numerous physical, emotional, and cognitive benefits. Engaging in fun and easy exercises and activities that promote whole body movement can help improve coordination, sensory integration, communication, and overall well-being.

1. Sensory Regulation and Integration:

Many individuals with autism have sensory sensitivities and sensory processing, as one of the key challenges.
●Whole body movement activities like walking can help them regulate their sensory experiences.
Being outdoors and engaging in whole body movement activities can provide a calming and grounding effect on their sensory systems.
●Physical activities can help them better regulate their sensory experiences.
●Activities like swinging, bouncing, or rocking can also provide the sensory input needed to self-soothe and maintain emotional balance.

2. Improved Social Interaction:

Autistic individuals often struggle with social interactions.

●Some whole body movement activities can be done in a group setting, offering individuals with autism the opportunity to interact with others, promoting socialization and communication.
●Participating in group activities, such as team sports or group walks, can create opportunities for social engagement.
●The shared activity provides a common focus and can lead to the development of social skills, such as taking turns, following rules, and working as a team.

3. Reducing Anxiety and Stress:

Physical activities, including walking, release endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. For everyone, these activities can help reduce anxiety and stress. Physical activity serves as an outlet for managing the emotional challenges that often accompany autism.

4. Enhancing Communication:

Engaging in whole body movement activities can improve non-verbal communication skills. For example, team sports require coordination and cooperation, which can help individuals with autism develop non-verbal communication skills through body language and gestures.

5. Improved Coordination and Balance:

Whole body movement exercises enhance coordination, balance, and motor skills, which can be particularly helpful for autistic individuals, who may face challenges in these areas in general.

6. Emotional Regulation:

Engaging in physical activities releases endorphins, which can help improve mood and emotional regulation, reducing anxiety and stress.

7. Promoting Physical Health:

Regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining good physical health. Autistic individuals are no exception. Encouraging whole body movement can contribute to better cardiovascular health, muscular development, and overall fitness.

8. Routine and Predictability:

Autistic individuals often thrive in structured and routine environments. Incorporating regular physical activities, such as daily walks, can provide predictability in their schedule, which can be comforting and help reduce anxiety.

9. Self-Esteem and Confidence:

As individuals develop physical skills and see improvements in their abilities, it can boost their self-esteem and confidence. Feeling a sense of accomplishment through physical activities can be especially empowering.

Incorporating Whole Body Movement in Daily Life

To make whole body movement more accessible, it’s essential to consider their unique needs and preferences. Some strategies to consider include:

●Tailor activities to their interests.
●Create a structured schedule for physical activities.
●Provide sensory-friendly environments.
●Encourage gradual exposure to different activities.
●Seek guidance from therapists or experts who have experience with autism and physical activity.

Fun and Easy Exercises and Activities

▪︎Dance Parties: Dancing to favorite music can be a joyful and engaging way to incorporate whole body movement. Encourage the individual to move freely and express themselves through dance.

▪︎Yoga and Stretching: Simple yoga poses like – Dog pose, cobra pose, child pose, tree pose, butterfly pose etc and stretching exercises can be adapted to accommodate the unique needs of individuals with autism. These activities are very easy for even a child to perform and can help with their flexibility, balance, and relaxation.

▪︎Sensory Swings: Swinging provides deep pressure and proprioceptive input, helping to calm and organize the sensory system. Swing sets or indoor sensory swings or normal park swing can be used for this purpose.

▪︎Trampolining: Trampolines are a fantastic way to engage in whole body movement while having fun. Bouncing on a trampoline helps with coordination and is a great source of sensory input.

▪︎Obstacle Courses: Create simple obstacle courses using everyday items like cushions, pillows, stools, chairs or cardboard boxes. Encourage the individual to climb, jump, and crawl through the course.

▪︎Hiking and Nature Walks: Spending time in nature, going for hikes, or taking leisurely walks in a park can provide a holistic whole body movement experience while connecting with the outdoors.

▪︎Swimming: Swimming is an excellent full-body workout that can be both enjoyable and therapeutic for one and all. The water provides relaxation and lot of sensory input and promotes muscle strength and coordination.

▪︎Martial Arts: Many people find martial arts like karate, judo, or taekwondo to be highly beneficial. These disciplines emphasize discipline, focus, and physical activity.

▪︎Biking: Riding a bicycle is a great way to get cardiovascular exercise, improve balance, and experience the world from a different perspective.

▪︎Skating: Skating is another full-body workout that can be enjoyable, recreational and a competitive sport for anyone.

▪︎Group Activities: Participating in group activities such as team sports or group fitness classes can encourage social interaction and teamwork while promoting whole body movement.

All in all, whole body movement activities, such as walking and other forms of exercise, offer numerous benefits to everyone. Moreover, these activities can help regulate sensory experiences, improve social skills, reduce anxiety, and enhance overall well-being in individuals with autism. It is quite essential for parents to recognize the diverse needs of their child and adapt physical activities to their preferences, allowing them to enjoy the positive impact of physical activity on their lives.
By promoting and incorporating whole body movement activities, we can contribute to the overall health and quality of life of ourselves and our children, as it is not only beneficial but also can be a lot of fun. It’s essential to tailor activities to the child’s specific needs and preferences and ensure that they are comfortable and enjoying the experience. By making whole body movement a regular part of their routine, people can lead healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lives.

I will be delving further into the topic of whole-body movement and its integration into both my daily routine and my son Yuvaan’s. I will also explore how mothers can allocate time to prioritize movement in their schedules. I appreciate your support for today’s blog and welcome your comments and valuable feedback.

Author Shilpi Mayank Awasthi
Founder SpecialSaathi

By Shilpi Mayank Awasthi


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