As World Autism Awareness Day takes place on the 2nd of April annually, we invited autism education specialist Kaylene Christensen to share her insight on how this condition can affect movement.
Autism and Movement
Guest Post by Kaylene Christensen
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder/Condition is a neurodevelopmental condition that may impact a person’s social interaction, communication, behaviour and sensory system. We have been told that autism is a behavioural disorder for many years due to the behaviours that challenge many autistic people. While many autistic children display behaviours that can be confusing, concerning, and even disruptive, these behaviours are due to a neurodevelopmental difference.
When we understand autism and the needs of the autistic person, we can provide appropriate support and ensure that the autistic individual is accepted for who they are. The potential of an autistic person is no less than a neurotypical person. Too often, people look at autism as something that needs to be controlled and contained; however, we should look at autism as neurodiversity that needs to be understood. Once understood, autistic people can receive support that focuses on their specific needs, which will help them thrive.
Autism and Movement
In the past, understanding an autistic person’s needs typically meant understanding communication, behaviour and sensory. We now know that many autistic people also have a movement disorder, which contributes to difficulties in communication and behaviour.
People with movement disorders may experience difficulties with:
- Motor Control
- Motor Planning
- Low Muscle Tone
All of which can be mislabeled as challenges with communication and behaviour. Research has shown that autistic people can develop the skills and strength required for deliberate and controlled motor movements by providing motor intervention such as biokinetics or physiotherapy. Meaning that, rather than ‘controlling’ behaviour, exercises increase muscle strength that will help with motor control, sitting upright for longer, and learning how to use both sides of their bodies simultaneously to navigate the ladder on a jungle gym. Developing balance and coordination might mean that a child is more confident in their body’s ability to join in a game on the playground. By supporting an autistic child in the way that their bodies need support, we create opportunities for them to succeed.
Movement disorders are often downplayed in autistic people; however, we can offer support to more individuals with research and awareness.
Support World Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, support neurodiversity.
Kaylene Christensen is a passionate and dedicated autism education specialist. She is an accomplished specialist autism teacher, practitioner and coordinator who also advocates for the rights of autistic people. She is currently completing her Masters in Psychology through the University of Wolverhampton and aims to help diagnose and support autistic females earlier on in their lives.
Kaylene’s work with Autism South Africa (A;SA) opened her world to the greater good she can do for autistic people and society and the need for autism awareness and acceptance in South Africa. Despite now being based in England, Kaylene is still involved in autism advocacy in South Africa and continues to work towards creating a world where autistic people are accepted, supported, included and empowered.
If you have questions about how Fish and Field Biokineticists can assist with an exercise program that helps develop motor neuron skills, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.