Does any child or adult around you or known to you is struggling with a problem in motor coordination or postural imbalance? Has he been diagnosed with Autism?  If yes, then physiotherapy can help that individual to improve motor functions by using proper exercise programs. An Exercise Program can be used to boost motor skills, posture, and confidence in children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Access to such Physiotherapy exercise programs can help an individual to build strength, improve posture, and enhance hand-eye coordination. In this blog we have mentioned a few exercises that can be done by children and adults with neuropsychiatric disorders, to promote motor skills, with a sense of self-efficacy and physical fitness.

 

Autism:

Autism is a complex neurological and developmental disability that can appear within the early developmental stages of life. Autism affects the normal functioning of the brain, communication as well as social skills of the child. This condition is regarded as a life-long condition and it cannot be cured. Although, severity may decrease through various treatments. The cause of Autism is still unknown, but the most common reason can be genetic, cognitive as well as neurodevelopmental factors that contribute to the characteristic of symptoms of Autism

Individuals with autism struggle with communication, which includes physical gestures to express themselves, and understanding body language, lower postural control, and stability can make basic activities like walking or standing more difficult. Another problem is dyspraxia, this term is used for general clumsiness, associated with developmental disorders, fine motor functions, and lower quality of movement. Autism patient has low muscle tone associated with repetitive motor movements and oral-motor problems, or issues with the tongue and jaw causing challenges with speaking.

 

Physiotherapy:

Physiotherapy helps to improve range of motion, muscle strength and control, and other aspects of physical health that may be impacted by this developmental condition.

A physiotherapist assesses the child's overall motor functioning, identifies the underlying difficulties, and provides an intervention program to help address or improve these difficulties and subsequently the child's overall functioning.  Exercises that may be used as part of a physiotherapy intervention plan include:

 

Exercises:

Here are some of the best exercises that are proven to be beneficial

 

Mirror Exercises

· An individual stands with hands by the side. Face towards the therapist.

· Make small movements for the individual and pursue them to repeat the same.

· Start with small movements like moving the shoulders up and down and eventually moving towards the complex ones.

· After the warm-up session start with the real practice.

· Ask an individual to lift the right hand up while mimicking like a mirror, the therapist picks the left one.

· Repeat the same for the legs, trunk, and neck.

· Continue this exercise for a minute and repeat it 4-5 times.

 

Arm Circles

· An individual is asked to stand with feet shoulder-width apart. and arms resting by the side.

· Slowly extend arms by the sides at shoulder level.

· Keeping the arms straight, start making small circles with the hands.

· Slowly, start making the circles bigger and continue creating the movement.

· First, do the exercise in the clockwise direction and then in the anti-clockwise direction repeat in each direction 20 times.

 

Bear Crawls

· Place hands under the shoulders and knees under the hip.

· Walk forward using the four across the floor.

· Next, move backward in the same position.

· When the person becomes comfortable, progression can be done in distance, speed, and direction.

 

Star Jumps

· Basic locomotor exercises like running and jumping can be performed

· Stand on the floor, with knees bent slightly, and tuck the arms in towards the chest.

· After counting 3, jump up from the squatting position, extending the arms and legs wide open. Making the body look like the symbol X.

· After landing on the floor, return to the starting position and repeat it 20 times.

· For running an individual is asked to start running at low speed over shorter distances, after the patient becomes comfortable the speed of running and distance to be covered are increased.

 

Hurdle Step-overs: -

· In these exercises, low hurdles are used, and the individual steps over each hurdle.

· The knees are raised high and the head is looking forward.

·  If the knees turn inward or outward, the examiner can prompt the individual by tapping the knee or holding a hand next to the foot.

· Walking forwards or backward, and sideways by crossing the hurdles,

 

Medicine Ball Slams

· Ask the person to hold a medicine ball in hand and stand straight.

· Raise the ball over the head with the arms straight.

· Slam the ball down on the floor with full force.

· Then just bend the knees and pick the ball.

· Repeat it 20 times.

 

Grab Ball Complex (GBC): -

· An individual stands in front of the therapist.

· Spot markers can be used.

· The therapist holds a ball at arm's length in various positions in front of the individual.

· The individual should bend, rotate, and reach to grab the object.

· One or both hands can be used in up, down, right, and left directions.

 

Ball Tap Complex (BTC): -

· The individual holds the ball while the therapist holds out a hand or other object.

· The individual taps the hand with the ball.

· The target can be held in a variety of positions and presented in random order or a particular sequence.

 

Activity-oriented Exercises:

To enhance the fine motor skill, tasks like

· Using a pencil.

· Cutting with scissors.

· Playing with pegs.

· Other activities like clapping hands, skipping, hopping and throwing, kicking or catching a ball, and standing on one leg.

· Horse riding.

· Bicycling.

 

Hydrotherapy Exercises:

Hydrotherapy or aquatic therapy has been commonly used to treat Autism patients. Water has a property that can provide sensory input, and improves range of motion and overall mobility. Warm water can decrease the body weight by 90%, relax the muscles, and reduces spasticity, thus making water the ideal medium for rehabilitating the body. This usually takes place in a swimming pool as the pressure and temperature of the water pressing against the body can soothe an autistic individual.

Physiotherapy can be a key intervention in the treatment of motor difficulties for patients with Autism. Access to physiotherapy may be important in early life, and also at various points throughout the person's life, or consistently throughout the entire life. While on the one hand exercises are useful in developing motor and social skills, on the other hand, they also help to manage weight and reduce hyperactivity and aggression. And thus, exercises should be made a part of the lifestyle of kids and adults with autism.