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New Member
Jun 25, 2022
I am currently trying to find ideas for coaching a child with autism who recently came to the gymnastics club I work at. The two apparatuses I'm struggling to find a fun way to help teach the child are vault and bars. I tried to get them to do what the lead coach of the group the child is in set out but was not interested in doing it. I ended up taking the child to our foam pit as it was not in use and asked them to try and make a tower or a pattern which they followed but I am worried as I can't always do that. We have not been on vault as last week our rotation did not include vault.

Can anyone tell me what they have done with children with autism and if it may be easier to treat the child as a preschooler in the sense of learning?
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Mar 20, 2009
People on the autistic spectrum are all very different from each other. If you know one you know one (this individual). There is no general set up that makes things easier for someone with autism. I would recommend talking to the parent about what works for their kid.


Feb 6, 2021
Hi! I was diagnosed with autism when I was 4 and started gymnastics when I was 9 or 10. As the previous person said, autism affects everyone differently so what may work for one kid may not work with another, and I definitely agree with having a talk with the parent(s) so you have an idea on what may or may not work with the kid. I will say, some kids on the spectrum may be sound and/or touch sensitive, so some aspects of gymnastics can be a bit of a challenge for them.

From my experience, I had the most trouble with the foam pit. It was very challenging for me and it took a few years to get around that, but it definitely helped that I had understanding coaches. I also preferred working alone with another coach rather than being with a group of other kids, and it helped a lot starting out. As I progressed I found that music was pretty much my best friend when I'd have a sensory overload. We had a break room with dimmed lighting so it made for a very calming environment where I could gather myself and come out when I was ready.

I'm sure whatever you do, that child will be forever grateful to have a coach who cares :)


Proud Parent
Dec 22, 2016
I also agree with talking to the parent they will really appreciate you taking the time to figure out something that will help their child! You can ask what strategies they have in place either at home or at school to help the child when they are overwhelmed, or if they are working on a new skill. You can adapt those same strategies to your teaching techniques at gym. That kind of consistency will help the child know what is expected of them as well. Some kids issues are more sensory, some more social etc. and knowing what this kids particular challenges are and how they are worked with in other settings will help you find success.
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Proud Parent
Aug 22, 2008
how old is the child? I agree that talking with the parent is a good first step. They likely have plans in place in other areas for following directions, completing tasks, etc. The parent can also help you determine what level they are at socially/cognitively, which will help you to interact more effectively with them


Proud Parent
Mar 25, 2022
This is a tough situation, which you are most likely not trained to deal with. In fact, fully trained occupational therapists can struggle to get some kids to even wear their shoes or be able to deal with being in a crowd.

Frankly, I think best practices would be to talk to the parents and then let the child operate within whatever parameters they are capable of -- which might include not doing everything that everyone else does.


New Member
Apr 28, 2017
Routine and structure can be very useful. Again check with the parents but a set warm up that stays the same and then a visual plan for training on a board or somewhere the child can see it could help with transitions and reducing anxiety.


Proud Parent
Dec 6, 2021
I agree with a visual schedule being helpful. Additionally, warning before transitions could be good. I wonder if there is a sensory component involved with vault and bars? Sensory processing disorder is something that often affects neurodivergent kids.
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