In honor of Autism Awareness Month, Pine Brook Fitness has partnered with Priscilla Bill, mom of two children with one on the spectrum, to launch a program dedicated to providing children with autism a structured fitness program. Aut To Be Fit is a 45-minute class for children with autism that will involve music, singing, obstacle courses and a fitness regimen that also promotes social skills, pre-academic skills and mindfulness. We sat down with Priscilla, who will be leading this program, to learn a bit more about how she came up with the idea and what parents can expect with Aut To Be Fit.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO CREATE THIS PROGRAM?
When my daughter was diagnosed with autism at 16 months old, I went into survival mode and I went seeking help for her. As the months went by I realized how small her world was as I tried to give her a “normal” life as I did for my oldest daughter.
I soon noticed outdoor concerts, indoor play gyms, play dates, friends’ houses that had children her age, even playgrounds – were now huge challenges and eventually became null. The gyms were too big or noisy for her, the play dates involved no playing because she didn’t know how to play with toys and wouldn’t communicate with the other child. The outdoor concerts were terrible to her ears. At the playground I would follow her like a detective. While at home there was a lot of rocking, biting, up all night, up all day, picky eating, no eating, vomiting (from food allergies), no talking, no crying and no eye contact. Outside joy was limited as my defenses were always up and my face was always hanging with frustration, confusion and lack of sleep.
It wasn’t until she started this amazing Pre-K program that I noticed it was the one place I felt “secure” for her. I think that’s when I became human again too. It was a classroom with a small amount of children and it was a safe place to play and learn. The teachers understood and knew how to help her without judgement. And they helped me as well with lots of advice on how to help her at home too!
I thought…Where could I find a fun space for kids like her? Where can we have play dates that help teach playing with others? Learn to play and play to learn? A place where parents don’t have to apologize or worry about other peoples’ reactions when their kids are stemming? A non-judgmental place? Where other parents that understand can meet?
I wanted to create a place that answered “yes” to these questions and this was my intention for creating Aut To Be Fit.
WHO DEVELOPED THE PROGRAM?
This program was created with the generous and enthusiastic advice of Kathy Rie, M.Ed. Kathy Rie was my daughters’ Pre-K Special Education teacher for two years in the Mamaroneck School District who produces amazing results with the children she works with. When she offered to help me with this program I felt truly blessed!
Marcia Hacohen is an Occupational therapist who also works in the Westchester district and has also offered her pearls of wisdom for this program. Marcia’s generous advice on equipment and play (physical regimen) has been a great addition to this new program.
WHAT CAN PARENTS EXPECT IN AUT TO BE FIT?
The 45-minute structured fitness program encourages balance, coordination, spatial concepts, self-awareness and physical health. It also promotes social skills, mindfulness, personal recognition, following directions, self-help, patience, join attention and even pre-academic skills. At the end of each class children will have 30 minutes of unstructured free play.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO PARTICIPATE IN AUT TO BE FIT?
The Aut To Be Fit program is designed for children ages 2-8 with autism or on the spectrum.
WHAT ABOUT SIBLINGS AND OTHER CHILDREN WHO DON’T HAVE AUTISM – CAN THEY PARTICIPATE?
Right now, the classes are designed only for children that have autism. But let’s see what we create in the future!
DO PARENTS HAVE TO PARTICIPATE?
Although the classes are designed to flourish independence within the children, parents are encouraged to join to help their child get the most out of the program. Depending on the child’s functioning level and how they react to the new fun filled environment will tell us how much participation the parent or caregiver will have. Parents might want to sit in on the first class or the first four classes or maybe even all eight classes! Concerns that parents might have can be personally addressed or discussed before the first class via email to me and/or also at the open house when we meet. All levels are welcomed regardless if they are toilet trained or not.Outside the class there is a seating area for the parents and they can also view their children from the glass door and windows!
WHEN WILL AUT TO BE FIT BE OFFERED?
The Aut To Be Fit program will run every Saturday from April 23 – June 11th. See times below for your age group and reserve a spot online below!
8 Week Series: $100
Drop-in rate: $15/advance registration online or $20/at the door
Power Sprouts: Ages 2 – 4
Saturdays, 11 – 12:30
Earth Troopers: Ages 5-8
Search under Pine Brook Fitness Events
For more information on the program or for any parents with additional questions, feel free to contact Program Director, Priscilla Bill, directly.