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Autistic children take things literally…

So one of the most useful things I gained from my disability module was a better insight into specific disabilities and some character/ behaviour traits that are useful to know so here’s my contribution to your learning! 😜

The first and most important thing to know about ‘Autism’ is that it’s a behavioural spectrum disorder. Often referred to as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) every single child is somewhere ‘on the spectrum’ and every child is unique. So for example some “high-functioning” children can cope well in mainstream sessions and hold conversations well, while other children on the spectrum may struggle in day-to-day environments and not want to engage verbally.

image

A second grade Autistic child’s response to the assignment

Another (illustrated beautifully above) is that some children interpret instructions literally. This is why you should never ask an autistic (or any other) child to “jump” off the trampoline. If the child takes the request literally and jumps down, they really won’t understand an admonishment, as they were simply following your exact instructions. So keep any instructions very clear and easy to understand.

One of the kids I teach “Oli” we’ll call him, often needs instructions in reverse order. So rather than saying “Can you do 10 seat drops in a row for me please Oli” it is easier for him to understand “Oli, seat drop 10 times”. Yes we do lose the “please can you” but to him this is superfluous information that is simply confusing and not something he needs to remember, so leave it out.

One of the things that struck me most about a class of children with similar needs being run was the order, structure and predictability of what was being taught. For example every child knew that the warm up was:

2 tuck
3 straddle
4 pike
5 seat drops
6 tuck
7 straddle
8 pike
9 seat drops and a full twist.

They also knew that “last goes” meant 20 seat drops followed by home time. This routine avoids melt downs, confusion and helps the children learn turn taking and what’s “fair” as well as teary tantrums of “I don’t wanna go!” Admittedly I once made the mistake of asking for 20 seat drops half way through a session, which prompted the child to ask “is it home time already?” Fortunately an explanation sufficed in that situation!

Another thing worth being aware of is many children have sensory sensitivities, such as an inability to cut out sounds – notably background noise, which leads to difficulties concentrating. Other children may like loud noises and find it easier to concentrate while making a loud noise.

Finally, another point to be aware of is that children on the spectrum do not always perceive danger, therefore the rules in a gym need to be clear from the start, and understood, with a close eye on children who aren’t on the trampoline.

So in summary, when coaching – stick to a routine, keep instructions plain and simple and try to avoid information-overload! The best solution to helping a child is ofter to ask the parent or carer, who manage all of the child’s behaviours and may already have several mechanisms to help their child which you too could use to make the most of the time they have with you.

Hope that helps and if you have anything to add, please comment below!
Meantime… keep bouncing! 😉 ~ Bella Bounce

Trampolining & Autism

Here’s an extract to an article in the Daily Express yesterday about charity patron Gethin Jones and his nephew Alby, who attends Rebounders – a charity committed to improving mobility, balance and strength in individuals with additional or profound needs through trampolining.

The text below is an extract from the article originally published online and available from the read more link below.

Gethin Jones: I wish people would accept my nephew for who he is

Gethin and his nephew Alby

Gethin and his nephew Alby

One activity that has been proven to help children and adults with autism is trampolining.

Five years ago Alby started attending Rebounders, a Cardiff-based charity which helps those with additional needs, to improve their mobility, balance and strength through the exercise.

“Rebounders is amazing and Alby loves going there. He learns his routines on the trampoline and then the kids put on a public performance, which Alby finds challenging because he doesn’t like loud applause.” says Gethin

Set up in 2002 by former accountant Heather Sargent, who had watched on amazed as her daughter Aimee progressed to becoming a Welsh international trampolinist, Rebounders works with small groups of autistic and disabled children and adults.

“They learn communication and social skills, including following instructions and taking turns,”
explains Heather
“Our instructors have set routines for the children’s first turn and their final turn, so they know when it is time to give someone else a go.

“People with autism can take instructions very literally, telling a child with autism that their turn is finished and they should jump down could mean that they leap from the trampoline, so instead we ask them to use the steps.

Having routines and teaching social skills and sharing, as well as the trampolining skills, means that children and adults thrive – as well as going away with a badge for each new achievement.”
Heather adds

Read more…

To find out more about Rebounders, visit their website here.

Until next time – Keep bouncing! 😉  Bella

The Disability Add-On Module

Eve Scourfield on beam

Eve Scourfield on beam

So I’ve not-so-recently completed the Disability add-on module for gymnastics, and there are a number of things that I took from it. With the Equalities act, it’s now more important than ever to consider the implications this has on your local gym club. I took the course because I wanted to find out a bit more about how gymnastics can be different for different disabled people.

The course was taken by Christine O’Hagan, British Gymnastics development officer who encouraged us all to share our own experiences and learn from each other. As there were a few Trampoline specific exercises we could contribute (a fellow tramp coach and I went together), we were let loose as a group to come up with exercises to share with the rest of the class which was fun!

I didn’t learn a great deal about specific disabilities, other than the ones that have been deemed specifically unsafe to participate in certain disciplines, for example Dwarfism (see pg17 here) but I did learn a number of useful things that are adaptable and relevant to a wide range of abilities.

I decided to publish this today, because Disability Gymnastics has reached an important Milestone for inclusive Gymnastics Clubs. There are now over 200 clubs either offering inclusive programmes or specific disability classes. Isn’t that awesome?

To find a British Gymnastics affiliate club near you, visit the Discover Gymnastics website.

20 years since the Disability Discrimination Act – #DDA20

I must say, I really enjoy reading Scope’s blog, since I’ve rubbed shoulders with people with disabilities in one way or another throughout my school, work and personal life. Since it’s a bit of a landmark #DDA20 I thought I’d share this blog and also a few of my thoughts on how Gymnastics in the UK has, as a sport, embraced disabilities – and made it more about Ability, not Dis-Ability. I’ll also round up later how there are still a few things that could help to embrace every ability further and the troubles in doing so.

Firstly, a little bit from Scope…

Scope's Blog

November marks the twentieth anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) becoming law in Britain. The law improved the lives of many disabled people and put anti-discrimination law on the statute book.  

For many disabled people the DDA was a bitter-sweet victory and didn’t go far enough. However, the civil rights campaigners and activists who fought tirelessly to change the law made 1995 a remarkable moment in disability history. 

This blog is shared as part of a series of stories to celebrate the campaigners who fought for civil rights. You can find out more on our website or on social media using #DDA20 

Over the coming few days (between 2 to 13 November) we’ll be sharing the stories of some of the people who were on the front line of the movement. People like Baroness Campbell, Mike Oliver and Agnes Fletcher who have all dedicated their lives to making the country a better place for disabled people.

Through…

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Disability Trampoline 1: ADHD

So there’s an enormously positive drive by British Gymnastics in line with their ‘Gymnastics for All – I’m In’ campaign, to make Trampoline and other Gymnastics disciplines accessible for everyone, regardless of any disabilities they might have. You can find out about what they did in South Africa, watch their new video ‘Disability Gymnastics- A Sport For All‘, or read what I thought was one of the most insightful, inspiring interviews ever, in The Gymnast with Natasha Coates, all round Disability champion who faces phenomenal challenges – and overcomes them in the most extraordinary way! She’s definitely on my Hero Wall…

I’m hoping to do a series of posts as I journey into the relatively unknown sport of Disability Trampoline. I do work with some children with disabilities in a mainstream session and in the past have contributed in a specialist disability environment, but I am by no means an expert! So I’ll be sharing what I learn as I go along. Hopefully you’ll learn just as much as I’m sure I will.

This post covers ADHD, aka Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and specifically how this affects Trampolining for children with this disorder.

web BGdiscover:trampoline

As previously mentioned, I’m not an expert, so I went to Susan Hayward, Founder of The Zimbabwe AD/HD Support Group (ZimAD/HA) – set up to help the parents of children with the disorder. Susan has many years of experience with ADHD and helped me to answer the fundamental questions I had.

Firstly: What is ADHD?

SH: “ADHD – Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood. It affects up to 10% of children and is determined by assessing levels of hyperactivity, impulsivity and distractibility. ADD – attention deficit disorder means they are less affected by hyperactivity. ADHD/ADD impacts more than one area of life – home and/or school and/or social and/or work, etc.”

Is there any reason why a child with ADHD can’t learn mainstream trampoline skills such as somersaults?

SH: No reason why not at all. Trampoline and other supervised active sports provide a safe environment for hyperactive children to release the abundant energy they have, whilst also giving them the opportunity to learn valuable life skills such as turn taking, co-ordination and balance, eye-contact and communication skills, body awareness and control, as well as sequencing and spatial awareness.

However teaching these skills may be challenging work and not without hazards! Some ADHD/ADD children can be incredibly impulsive, wanting to bounce all over the place and do their own thing.

The benefit of their boundless energy however means that children with ADHD may not tire as easily, so fatigue towards the end of an hour session and tired muscles may be less of an issue to allow for. That said, the parent or carer will no doubt appreciate having a tired child to take home!

Can you tell us a little bit more about some of the ADHD traits we might see in a trampoline session?

SH: Hyperactivity e.g. abundant energy and the ability to go on and go on.
Impulsivity e.g. random behaviour on the trampoline not necessarily as instructed by the coach, possible experimenting with skills they are not ready for with potentially mixed results!
Distractibility e.g. Looking around and being distracted by anything that moves (people, flapping curtains, unsecured doors, inside or outside the room through windows or open doors); sound – random noises such as the voices of other children or adults or car horns outside, or even an insect bashing itself against a window, etc.

Do gos need to be kept short?

As you would be teaching to the need and ability of the child this is not necessarily a specific consideration. Find a balance between enough but not too much for each child. Enough to train the muscle memory but not too much – they may become more impulsive and distractible (and irritable) when tired.

As a coach are there things we can do to help ADHD/ADD children learn?

Structure, routine and repetition are key to use in training ADHD/ADD children. These three traits work at home and in school too!

Plan lessons with structure, a predictable routine and repetition.

It is also important to find a mechanism to easily get their attention (particularly when they first start) and their distractibility can be used to your advantage. Something such as a soft hand clap, the clicking of fingers or raising an arm above your head can be taught to the child to mean “stop”.

Re-enforce all good behaviour (them doing what you have asked them to do) with lots of praise and treats (such as being allowed to do their favourite exercise or routine, not sugary ones!)

As repetition is good for ADHD/ADD children they may/may not get bored by repeated exercises. But if they do slight changes, even as simple as facing the other way round on the trampoline or variations on a theme of the exercise may help.

A quiet environment where there isn’t too much going on around them with fewer distractions would be beneficial.

The great thing with a sport like trampolining is that you get to work with children on an individual basis, which ADHD/ADD children will enjoy. As each child has varying degrees of hyperactivity, impulsivity and distractibility they will benefit most from being worked with individually, tailoring teaching and taught skills to suit the severity of the symptoms would be preferable.

When learning a skill for the first time, a one-on-one session may work best, as the fewer distractions the more able this child is at concentrating on you as the coach and the skill being taught.

Special thanks to Susan for her contribution to this article.
Susan is currently teaching Mental Health First Aid skills in the Hampshire and wider area. To find out more or to ask any questions contact her here.

Happy Bouncing! 🙂

Posts Archive

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Some fresh hair-up ideas and solutions for when your hair gets in the way of your training no matter what you do with it!

Disability Trampoline 1: ADHD

This post covers ADHD, aka Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and specifically how this affects Trampolining for children with this disorder.

Is he okay? It’s like I’m coaching a different child

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Medical Mayhem 1

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Medical Mayhem 2

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Safety: Garden Trampolines

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An (brief) introduction to my new blog…