An Introduction into Sport and Exercise for People who have Autism (Part 1)
Published: December 2011: Updated September 2013, August 2017
Partners: Amanda Durrant
Here, we take a look at the work of Amanda Durrant from the UK. Amanda has been working for over 20 years teaching gym sports to young people with disability, particularly young people with autism. Amanda’s even written a book on the subject and we take some of her ideas in her book as examples of good inclusive practice.
One of the great things about working behind the scenes at The Inclusion Club is that you come across some incredible people.
People who are doing wonderful things to really drive the inclusion of people with disability in sport and physical activity.
They are everywhere. Every corner of the world.
In one corner—Chelmsford in the UK—there’s a women called Amanda Durrant who is kicking some serious goals and making a real dent in the world. Has been for 25 years!
It’s our great pleasure today to bring you an extract of her work focusing on exercise and sport for people who have autism. This is the first part of a two part mini-series.
In 2009 Amanda produced a book called An Introduction to Exercise and Sport for People Who Have Autism.
In Amanda’s own words:
As a disability sports coach it is my responsibility to include those who have severe Autism in a gym and agility session.
An exercise session needs to be accessible if an individual is to realise their potential. Importantly, the session itself needs to be of a style that is compatible with a persons needs and promotes and not hinders their inclusion.
This book was set out to help parents and providers with a start point in delivering a session with structure to a person with complex needs.
Many of the children who started some time ago using these methods are now enjoying different sports within their community and have taken governing body sports awards.
In her book Amanda uses her many years of experience as a disability coach to help guide parents and sports providers in delivering an exercise and sports session to individuals with severe to moderate Autism who would normally find it difficult to interact in a sports setting in a focused way.
There are four sections, ‘Jog and Stop,’ ‘Ribbon Time,’ ‘Roll Ball,’ and ‘Kick Ball.’
There are many skills covered some of which are; taking turns, running, stopping, body shapes, sequences, locating, retrieving, rolling, kicking and how to play a game that suits the needs of an individual.
We think that the game activities and tips for inclusion described in Amanda’s book are applicable across a wide range of settings, not just for children in a gym session.
For example, the section on ‘Kick Football’ would be really useful for anyone teaching or coaching football that includes people who have autism or related conditions.
So what we have done here—with Amanda’s permission—is to give you an extract from two sections of her book.
If you would like these you can order the book from the link at the bottom of this page.
To start though Amanda has been kind enough to record a short video exclusively for The Inclusion Club, introducing herself and her book, from her home in the UK.
In the video Amanda mentions an Agility Awards Scheme that she has developed around some of the ideas in the book. If this interests you you can contact Amanda on:
And there is a transcript of the video underneath to download if you wish.
Jog and Stop
Jog and Stop is a running game. Everyone is encouraged to run around in the same direction. When the leader (who has been running with the group) calls ‘stop,’ everyone stops.
The leader then calls out an action such as ‘star.’ When the star has been made the leader calls ‘run’ and the game continues. Before ending the game, everyone should slow down to a walk and end with stretching exercises.
The duration of the game should be relevant to the age of the participants, their fitness level and temperature of the room. Ask someone to watch the class, as not all children know their limitations or feel pain and an individual might need to be stopped.
The room or designated area should not be too large and should be clear of any objects and distractions.
Points to consider with Jog and Stop
- Learn each stage slowly, this could mean days, weeks, months or longer.
- Give participants time to process what has been asked and do not repeat what you have said more than is necessary.
- You may wish to ask a buddy to partner a child
- How many children that can play at any one time will depend on their size, and the size of your play area.
- Some children might find it beneficial to see a picture sequence of the game first.
- If some children prefer visual clues, have a red and a green card that can be shown alongside the words ‘stop’ and ‘run.’
- If participants find it difficult to run in the same direction, place a long bench in the middle of the room and use it as a marker to travel around.
- Once a bench is successful, use flat markers each end of the room to run around.
- Initially, it might be helpful to the players if the leader stops in the same place each time they call ‘stop.’
Encourage everyone to walk around the room in any direction. Now call for everyone to walk in the same direction. You may need to use something visual such as a bench to walk around.
Stop and move your head from side to side and then nod gently. Now wave your hands and shake your arms.
Next, sway your arms side to side then rotate them round and round. Place hands around the waist and move your hips to the left and right.
SIt down and stretch your arms forward towards the knees while keeping the back flat. Once the warm up becomes routine and players are comfortable doing it, gradually add more exercises.
Game One—Start and Stop
Stop when the leader calls out ‘stop.’ When the leader calls ‘run,’ the whole group runs. This is Jog and Stop in its simplest form. You might need to keep this format until the participants are comfortable with the game.
Game Two—Standing Shapes
This time, when the leader calls ‘stop,’ make a standing static shape (non locomotive) such as a star shape.
The leader may also need to say how, such as ‘arms out wide and legs out wide.’ Other static standing shapes to try are:
- Arms stretched up, out or down
- Hands on heads or shoulders
- Hands around waist
- Hands on knees or feet
- Crossed arms
- Hands together
- Fingers interlocked
There are 12 more ‘Games’ described in the book for ‘Jog and Stop’ with increasing levels of complexity. If you want to find what these are and all the other games for Ribbon Time, Roll Ball and Kick Football then you can buy the book direct from Amazon below.
In a week or so we are going to look at Kick Football and a few of the games that Amanda has come up with.
Don’t forget the link below if it interests you.
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About the author: Peter Downs
Founding Director - The Inclusion Club
Peter is Founding Director of The Inclusion Club and Manager of Play by the Rules – a national initiative to promote safe, fair and inclusive sport. Peter has worked for over 25 years in the field of inclusive sport, disability sport and physical activity including 17 years managing the Australian Sports Commission’s Disability Sport Unit. In 2013 Peter was fortunate enough to receive a Churchill Fellowship to study models of best practice in inclusive sport and physical activity.