OMATAS Blog

Strength and improved cognition in ASD

This morning, in my inbox, was a Masters student looking at this very thing.

We have found, anecdotally, that without a doubt an improvement in physical strength improves cognition in our students on the Autism spectrum.

I am particularly interested in the building blocks of attention, cognition and overall functioning from emotional wellbeing to social enjoyment and growth. Specifically, as it relates to individuals, rather than groups of similar students. When we are able to put the right mix of interventions together that are acceptable for the child (i.e. they are willing to do the ‘work’), we see improvements across the board.

Resistance training, rather than cardiovascular training (though you seldom get one without some of the other), seems to lay a foundation down that is solid and supportive of a cascade of benefits. We see improved antigravity movement and posture, endurance and stamina. Children find it easier to hold their body upright and they spend less cognitive energy on fighting gravity and moving through space.

These physical outcomes support the cognitive outcomes we see, such as better emotional and physical regulation, higher tolerance for frustration, increased ability to handle mistakes and fears about failure, improved concentration as well as more regulated sensory systems which seems to improve auditory processing.

In short, if you aren’t helping your child to look after their physical body, you are blocking one of the strongest pathways to cognitive, emotional and social growth.

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