3 Tools for Training the Client With Autism (That Can Be Used With ANY Client)

Eric Chessen
Special Populations

Fitness for the autism and special needs population doesn't exactly seem like a topic brimming with excitement or practical application to higher level athletes, clients, or your own training. It didn't even seem exciting to those representing the autism population; parents, educators, and professionals, for roughly the first six years of my career.


I started my career as a trainer working with general population clients and gradually despising every minute of it in the sucky little gym run by a cheap, overly self-involved, numbskull with a penchant for machine-based circuits and cardio. Through a series of events, I began developing and implementing fitness programs for young teenagers on the autism spectrum, eventually becoming the leading authority on the subject due mostly for three facts: I found excellent mentors on both the fitness and behavior therapy side, became very, very good at what I was doing and, third, no one else was doing it.


Niche marketing is the trending business model in the fitness realm right now. Specialize, specialize, specialize, and you will capture your “target demographic.” Despite the advertising to the contrary, everyone needs pretty much the same thing with a few individualized programming tweaks. Squat, push, pull, rotate, locomotion. Build a foundation of strength, stability, and power. Nobody, it seems, ever thought to have a kid on the autism spectrum do an overhead walk with a loaded sandbag. It's the same, only a little more involved teaching a non-verbal 15-year-old to squat, but I loved doing it and so I began to build a specialization. Presto! A niche.


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