Autism TodayTV Explores Fitness and Autism

What’s good for the body is good for the brain.


Some studies suggests that physical activity may help with students’ cognitive control and ability to pay attention which can lead to better school grades. That sounds like a no brainer.

Many of us think that exercise is something we do in the gym, tread mill, weight lifting and so on, however; to a kid, exercise means playing games like tag, green light red light and generally just being active. Many get exercise at school during gym period, recess or even riding their bikes.

To our kiddos on the spectrum, exercise may not come as easy for reasons like, socialization challenges, coordination challenges. While it may take extra effort to get a child with autism to be physically active, the benefits are well worth the effort.


In addition to the aforementioned, physical activity plays an important part in fitness strength and flexibility, it decreases anxiety, depression, tension, fatigue and anger, and protects against disease and injury while promoting creativity, cognition, attention and communication.

The key is to make fitness a fun experience.

In this episode, we go to Sonoma State in California to explore two programs that are designed for students with special needs. It gives them the opportunity to participate in physical education while building social skills.

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Some Pig! Some Impact! Buttercup!

Some pig! I remember when my husband called me and asked, “are you sure you want this little guy? He looks a bit, well, ugly and uptight.” Taking a look at the picture myself I had no choice but to agree. You see, Buttercup was living in Texas, all we had to go on was his picture and the breeder’s reputation. We decided to go ahead and get him in spite of his homely appearance.

He came to use one April evening via the San Francisco airport; there were many people at the special baggage claim area collecting their dogs and cats. We were there, but not for a dog or cat. We were picking up our new family member, Buttercup.

Everyone there was happy to see their four legged friends, but they were also intrigued by the itty-bitty crate, and what was in it, “a guinea pig!” said a man “A pig!” replied his wife “That small?” wondered a group of people. I should have known then, Buttercup would make an impact wherever he went.

That was 4 years ago! Today, he’s an accomplished therapy animal, certified by the Delta Society. He’s on Facebook, where he has many friends and fans. He has been on KQED’s “Bay Area People” with Rosie Chu. You can see that video here. His latest appearance is in November’s edition of Reader’s Digest. No student has forgotten, or stopped talking about Buttercup. That’s impressive coming from a child who before Buttercup would not talk or socialize with anyone. There is no denying the fact; he makes a long lasting impact wherever he goes.

Despite his fame and busy schedule, he always makes time for his family. He sits with us to watch a movie, so long as we can scratch him and watch at the same time. He sometimes sits at my feet and keeps me company while I’m typing away on the computer. During the winter, he loves to sit with us in front of the fireplace.

Buttercup is our friend, our pet and our co-worker, but most important of all he’s a family member. Judging by the amount of time he spends with us, he digs us too, after all the choice of going outdoors or staying inside is totally his.

The human animal bond can be traced back thousands of years. This bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship.

Working together with your animal friend to make a difference in someone’s life can be a very rewarding experience.

If you would like to know more about Animal Assisted Therapy or explore if this is something you would like to do, consider taking my AAT course. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

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iPad Apps Can Support Evidence-Based Practice

The American Speech-Language, Hearing Association (ASHA) uses a well-known definition put forth by David Sackett and colleagues to define evidence based practices.

“Evidence-based medicine is the integration of best research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values.” (Sackett D et al. Evidence-Based Medicine: How to Practice and Teach EBM, 2nd edition. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, 2000, p.1)

EBP & Autism Spectrum Disorders

According to The National Professional Development Center (NPDC) many interventions for autism exist, only some have been shown to be effective through scientific research. Interventions that researchers have shown to be effective are called evidence-based practices. Currently, the Center has identified 24 evidence-based practices. Follow the link to The National Professional Development center to read the details.

The National Autism Center (NAC) has identified 11 established treatments. Established Treatments are those for which several well-controlled studies have shown the intervention to produce beneficial effects. See The National Autism Center (NAC)
National Standards Report

Below is a list of iPad apps that support evidence based practice for both speech language pathology and autism spectrum disorders. There are hundreds of thousands of apps on the market today and hundreds more every week. The apps represented in the table are only a few examples of what is available. Every student will have individual needs, preferences and characteristics. It is up to the educator/therapist to choose the best “fit” for each student. The table is meant for informational purposes only to illustrate how apps support evidence based practice and to use as you determine appropriate.


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Apps for Autism- Feature Matching Table For iPad Cases

What’s The Best Case for My Child

Choosing the right case to protect your iPad and let your child express their individuality is, in some ways, just as important as choosing the right applications. Individuals with autism are using iPads in many different environments and for purposes that are as individual at they are. Below is a feature matching chart that will help you decide what case is right for you.

Table 1 is an example using 5 great cases that have been great fits for my students with autism. At the end of this post there’s a link to download a blank table, use it to help you determine which case fits your particular needs.

Table 1


When considering cases for students with autism or any youngster it is a good idea to make sure it offers protection from drops and bumps. Cases should be able to absorb the shock of a drop as high as a desk as well as the occasional toss.

Spill Proof (indirect spills)

Some cases offer protection from spills by elevating your pad off the surface of a table or desk. By raising your iPad off the surface an area is created between the surface and the iPad this buffer allows spills to simply run off without making contact with the iPad; however, there is no protection from direct spills on the iPad itself. For added protection from liquid spills during messy activities such as lunchtime, place your iPad into a Ziploc plastic bag. There are several Waterproof cases available as well, but they are not recommended for everyday use, however.

Carrying Case

Individuals with autism often use their iPads as a means of communication and need to have it with them throughout their day. A carrying case can make the transportation of an iPad from place to place easy and stylish. Custom made carrying cases can provide extra protection from knocks and falls when traveling from place to place in your busy day.


When the iPad is meant to be used on a student’s desktop or table, then a sturdy stand is an important feature to consider. Stands that let the user adjust angle and move back and forth from landscape to portrait quickly and securely are highly desirable in the classroom environment.

There are hundreds of cases available for the iPad. I choose 5 to highlight that have kept my iPads safe and allowed my students accessibility; however, they are not the only cases appropriate for use for students with autism. Use the feature matching table to determine which iPad case is right for your child or student.

Download the Case Feature Matching Table Here
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Apps for Autism Highlights- iballz

By:Friendly Integration LLC

iBallz cost: $24.55
Bags and cases range from $27.99-$39.95

From The Developer

iBallz Original is a shock-absorbing harness for Apple iPad (1st, 2nd and 3rd generation). Four shock-absorbing balls fit over the corners of your iPad and are held in place by an adjustable elastic cord. Easy to attach and remove, iBallz provide ultimate drop protection without adding weight or concealing your iPad. Dropped from any angle, it never touches the floor and is elevated above spills and sticky surfaces.

From The Customer

Simple, yet effective and functional iBallz protects your iPad from tumbles and drops with four lightweight balls held in place with an adjustable bungee cord. This makes a striking visual impression that generates curiosity and draws student’s attention to the iDevice. And yes, they can survive a drop. Since using iBallz my iPad has made it unharmed through multiple accidental falls and spills.

Initially, I thought my students would pull the balls off or focus their attention on playing with the balls. I was wrong, most students simply looked, touched and maybe squeezed the brightly colored balls and then continued onto the iPad activity.

If that’s not enough, Friendly Integration gives you a choice of 4 bags and cases (Lid, Satchel, Hard Case or Soft Sleeve) custom made to fit perfectly with your iBallz harness. From a unique hand held folding sleeve to a shock-absorbing Satchel with a padded shoulder sling each bag or case serves a different purpose to fit your individual needs.

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Apps for Autism Highlights “Video Scheduler”

Video Scheduler              By: MDR


From The Developer

Scheduler offers a variety of features in an easy to use interface allowing maximum customization. These features include various orientation locks, which prevent students from engaging in stimulatory behaviors with the video. Users can also select from three video and picture sizes. There’s also a pass code function, which can be applied to prevent users from skipping around to preferred aspects of their schedule.

From The Customer

Research has shown us that students with autism can acquire skills in daily living, social interactions, communication, behavior management and functional academics through video modeling. Now we have a powerful tool available at our fingertips to use in everyday real-life situations. Video Scheduler app takes visual supports to the next level by adding a video component that lets users embed audio-visual prompts into a schedule or modeling sequence. Video modeling supports can be made on-the-spot and replayed almost instantly to support and reinforce the acquisition of new skills. The developers have added several features to reduce stimulatory behaviors and ensure all steps in the schedule are completed in the order presented.

The video component of Video Scheduler will only work with iDevices that have the camera feature. Picture schedules can be made on iDevices without the camera feature.

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Speak, Move, Play and Learn With Children on the Autism Spectrum

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This practical resource is brimming with activities and guidance for using ideas from speech-language pathology and occupational therapy to boost communication, sensory, integration and coordination skills in children on the autism spectrum.

Suitable for use in the classroom, at home, and in community settings, it’s packed with easy-to-follow, goal-oriented activities and lesson plans centering around arts and crafts, music-making, cookery, sensory activities and skills for daily living.