A conversation yesterday about PE teachers finding themselves (possibly yourself) working with the autism and special needs population for the first time reminded me of this video I filmed a while back.

Let’s suppose a PE teacher is running a session with one (or more) students with autism and they’ve never worked directly with the population before. What about a special education teacher, well-accomplished in educating and supporting her students, had to teach an impromptu adapted PE class.

What’s the triage approach for running a successful fitness or adapted PE session?

Of all the important information, what would we need to retain in the moment? What would be the most useful, the most practical?

Invariably a class is going to have different physical, adaptive, and cognitive ability levels among the students. And it will be difficult if not outright impossible to assess each individual in the first 5 minutes. This normally does not even happen in a 1-to-1 setting.

The difference between “getting through” and “thriving in” the session comes down to three factors;

Having movement-based activities that can be appropriately progressed and regressed as needed.

Having behavior support structures and strategies in place and knowing where to apply them.

Knowing where to provide coaching support and how to demonstrate each exercise or movement.

These are the principles behind the PAC Profile and while each is comprehensive, there are straightforward practices and processes to each.

Physical; Use essential movement patterns (push, pull, squat, crawl, throw, carry). Start at the point where the movement looks good and the athlete/student needs as little physical support as possible.

Adaptive; Breaks when needed. If/then contingencies that are clear and concise. Behavior-specific praise (BSP).

Cognitive; Clear directions. Limited “explaining” and more demonstrating.

For certain these are practices that take time to master, but we’re talking “just got word I have to run a class” situations here.

For those of you running virtual/online/hologram classes, the principles still apply. Use fewer exercises. Wait for “ready position.” Have as little distraction as possible. Use behavior-specific praise to give feedback.

The video below; “Help, it’s My First Fitness Session with Someone Who Has Autism” applies equally to fitness professionals and educators. If it is helpful for you, nifty. If it will be helpful for your friend or colleague who’s just been notified that they’re leading the 10am class, go ahead and share the link.

[maxbutton id=”3″ url=”https://youtu.be/QfH19VBbrD0″ text=”It’s My First Session!” ]