My younger brother Don was diagnosed with autism around the age of four. Early on, it was evident that his development was delayed, primarily his verbal development and temperament. We also noticed him exhibiting repetitive actions; all symptoms of an individual with autism.
I was ten years old when he was diagnosed, and at that time I wasn't clear what having autism entailed. I accepted the fact that he was unable to communicate verbally and seldom interacted with his peers; however, he was quite talented physically. I remember playing hide-and-go seek and tag out in the backyard. He also loved to swim and was very good basketball. I should know, as he once beat me on the court! (Being an Olympic gold medalist doesn't make me immune to losing). After that I refused to compete against him again. Don was quite the athlete when we were kids!
Today, it's a different story. Don is not nearly as active as he was when he was a child. Although inactivity is an issue for most adults these days, Don isn't inactive because of a lack of interest or drive. Rather, it could be because the opportunities for fitness targeting individuals with autism, is far and few between. So when I heard of Autism Fitness, founded by Eric Chessen, I was eager to travel to New York City with my brother to see how he could benefit from this program.
At the start of the program, Chessen put my brother through a comprehensive assessment known as the PAC profile, which is used to determine the physical, adaptive, and cognitive abilities of each participant. Autism Fitness is more than just a program to improve one's physical health, it also aims to improve behavioral issues and enhance cognitive abilities. As I observed the activities that my brother participated in I saw his listening skills and visual awareness being put to the test. Though he did not get through all of the 20 exercises in the PAC program, it was clear that he was challenged physically and mentally. I can only wonder if my brother was regularly exposed to a program like Autism Fitness as a child, would his overall development be different than it is today?