Coaches Tips for coaching 'AS' kids?

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Oct 28, 2008
I've having problems with a girl in one of my classes, (difficulty interacting with other kids, not respecting my authority, butting in line, etc.), and I just found out tonight that she has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome(which is a form of autism). When I finally talked to her mom tonight, she was really great and understanding; we'll be working together to try and make the class easier for both her and the other kids, hopefully getting her a one-on-one helper for the class. I'm just wondering if anyone else has worked with kids with Asperger's, or anything within the Autism spectrum, and what kind of techniques helped the class run better? It's a beginers rec class of girls about 6-9 years old.
Aspberger's kids generally have frustrationg with social interactions. They don't understand facial expressions much, and tend to have a very flat affect. Being as literal as possible and cut and dry will help, and using models for demonstration will help. Depending on the severity, she may have trouble communicating her feelings, especially fear and anxiety. She may act out or be angry instead of expressing her hesitance to continue.

Just be patient, and learn from her. If you show genuine interest in her, and show that you care about her well being, she will listen and learn from you.

Generally, kids with Aspberger's shouldnt be with a one-on-one unless there are severe behavior issues or safety issues. Her parents will know her better than anyone, so listen to their guidance - just be ready for them to say "I don't know" too...

A lot of times you will find that some of the things she says or does will be among the most hilarious you've ever seen. Just be ready to have the same jokes repeated a lot, and the same comments used to make others laugh. It is a coping mechanism that many use to feel "accepted." However, at her age you may find that she is simply just quiet or withdrawn (or, totally opposite, trying to feel her way through).

For the most part, they are kids. Smile a lot, help her through her frustrations, and teach. She, and you, will be fine.
Thanks! Fortunately I know a little bit about Asperger's, my little brother was just diagnosed with it last year; I must say, it is a learning experience!;)

She does have quite a bit of trouble communicating with me and the other kids, she'll make comments that they take the wrong way, or she'll keep making sounds that annoy/distract the other kids and doesn't know when to stop.

Her parents are also learning about it, as this was just a recent diagnoses. I've actually seen a remarkable improvement in AS kids who have one-on-one workers. Not to discount what you're saying, but sometimes they do need an additional authority there. I've had a CIT a couple times, and it seems to help, even if it's just helping to diffuse the situation.

She is very quiet and withdrawn, almost sullen at times, and almost never talks to me. She has a hard time respecting my authority(eg. This is the way we do the skill, you need to do something this way to stay safe, if I say something, I mean it, etc.), and while I have a little experience with bubbly, happy 'aspies', I'm not quite sure how to take this side of it.

Thanks again for your insight!
Don't tell her "do it this way because I said so".

Tell her "do it this way because <insert the biomechanics here>". That's LOGICAL. "because I said so" isn't.

Also be mindful of bullying by the other kids in class, and giving her a schedule of events wouldn't be a bad thing, nor would using a LOT of visual teaching.
I don't know if this is any help. I recently asked for advice regarding a child I had that had autism (look back through the posts). The child in question has been on holidays the last few weeks but things had gone a lot better the second visit and not to bad the third. At this point in time the biggest issue with him is if he wants to stay on a particular apparatus rarther than rotating.

However, shortly after the little boy started a little girl with autism started. Her parents talked to me before starting her and always stay for the class. They told me that perhaps the main issue she may struggle with is losing in games. Maybe because we don't tend to play elimination games this issue hasn't come up. She's been an absolute delight and very funny. I actually really like her. She is a lot different to the little boy who seems to get more upset if things arn't going exactly as he would like.

Last year I also had a little boy who had aspergers syndrome. He was also an absolute delight. I think his parents struggled at times with him but with me he was nothing but a smiling happy little boy. A little reserved and a under confident at times but he was never any trouble.

I know this post hasn't helped in regards to any advice but perhaps it's good just to hear of others experiences. I think they're are more challenges ahead of me in regards to the little boy with autism but the little girl is having an absolute blast of a time and has settled really well.

Hmm. Interesting. I'm wondering if one of the 4yo boys in the beginning class ( only in the class because his brother is 7 and they come as a pair and I can't get him into the 4-6 class because of schedule ) has AS. Some of his behavior reminds of autism but he isn't as out there as most of the autistic children I have worked with ( even the good ones that got used to the schedule ).

In some classes with some of the kids with autism, they came with a tutor, especially if they were really subject to wandering with poor communication skills. Sometimes, we tried to setup a group class of such children to better serve them and not take away from the other gymnasts.

So far the parent and grandparents haven't told me anything and I've yet to ask either about them. Usually, parents will eventually fess up but sometimes they won't for literally 6 months. I have considered stating that he needs to be in his appropriate age group because he is detracting from the other gymnasts. I recently set up a L1 4-6 class that is only 60m instead of 90m and I intend to have that class be the beginner class and the 90m class be the L2 class over time.

Typically, I just sit him out and have a talk with him but it has really tried my patience. I'm not quite if it's because he's 4.5 or a young boy of that or has had too much sugar or maybe AS ( some of the signs like not maintaining eye contact when I'm talking with him and avoiding it and aggressive behavior toward his older brother [ who's kind of a softy ]).
We have a very challenging AS boy at school more similar to the girl you have. We have had many professionals in to help over the years. A couple of things we have had might be useful.

The need to feel in control - this leads to trying to control others (bullying, bossing around, always being the one who chooses, unkind remarks, etc) It is a coping mechanism.

6 second rule. AS children find processing words and instructions hard. Keep your sentences very simple and clear. Wait 6 seconds and if they don't do what you have asked repeat your instructions exactly the same and wait again. This is the opposite of other children where if they dont understand we try and explain in a different way.

As someone already mentioned going through the technical part of why they should do something should appeal to AS children. They often love technical langauge and have great vocabulary. Go the biomechanics route!

Often AS children find it difficult to interact with other children but often respond well 1 -1 with adults. Having someone there to 'mind' them often helps because they can 'shut out' the other children and just concentrate on interacting with their adult. Alot of difficult behaviour is caused by stress (that you and I wouldn't think is stressful like noise etc) A 'minder' helps to reduce this stress and make them feel safe. Some AS children are terribly self concious and may not like 'showing' to the rest of the group.

Ignore sullen looks, face pulling, not talking or not looking you in the eye. They are all coping mechanisms. Always be calm, firm and stand by your rules. Write them out if neccessary.

Ask the parents for ideas and good luck.
Ignoring the "disrespectful" faces or tones of voice, I strongly second (and third) that.

Chances are good, no, great, that the kid doesn't even know she's doing it (should it happen). People with AS are pretty much oblivious to what their facial expressions look like and MEAN, and that goes double for tone of voice. If someone with AS wants to insult you...uh...there's no mistaking it. At all.

And be prepared to find delight in this student. Some of my favorite people (gymnasts and non, kids and adults) are on the autism spectrum. Other people who aren't me, and therefore not biased the way i am, have made similar observations.
Thanks SO much everyone for all your advice! I used quite a lot of it, and last night's class with her went almost fantastic!:p She was funny, smiling, laughing, listening fairly well, I think only had one problem moment with the other girls, and only had one time where she was really 'melting down'. :thumbsup: I'm hoping this is the start of a new and bright future of pleasant classes!
I have taught a number of boys with AS, ADHD, or Autism. I found that it has been essential for the parent to remain present during the class.

This ensured that the child remained safe, and did not wander off while my back was turned and jump on a peice of equipment.

It also ensured that any physical action against other gymnasts was quickly addressed by the parent. One of my autistic gymnasts did on occassions get physical and the situation could escalate very quickly.

Having the parent present also helped to educate me on the childs individual traits (and they have all been different!). This helped me to better communicate with the child. The parent can also advise if the child is having a bad day, and of any changes of behaviour that may be an issue.

At times coaching has been challenging but also very enjoyable, and the kids just love coming to gym.
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