Author: Engerise Me
Cranbourne school have launched a fitness club with the help of the Opening School Facilities project to support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to be active. We spoke to the school to find out the impact the club has had.
With the help of the Opening School Facilities project, we decided to start an ASD fitness club. We chose to work with a group of students in years 7, 8 and 9 who had all been diagnosed with ASD. The children had mixed sporting abilities and were of different ages.
We chose to invite these students as they would not usually be easily able to join in with fitness or gym activities. Loud music, a busy room and the banging of weights would make it hard for them to feel relaxed in a gym or fitness environment.
The funding allowed us to purchase new equipment to encourage students to “come and try” the fitness suite. It also allowed us to close the suite for the club to have exclusive access once a week. This meant students were able to access sections of the suite that they wouldn’t normally do during lesson time due to noise and crowding.
Giving the pupils with ASD a quiet space enabled them to learn to use the equipment and socialise with each other. They all had similar needs so we thought they’d be able to relate to each other and go through the experience together.
The club meets after school and has a clear structure each week. The students are involved in goal setting at the start of each session, which empowered them and encouraged independence in a safe and friendly environment.
The club is the best after school club I have ever been to.
The social aspect
Many of our students settled into the club quickly. They enjoy the sessions. Especially the fact that someone is taking the time to train them. Students have said it’s the best club they’ve ever been to and can’t wait for it to be Monday so they can come along.
One student’s parents have pointed out that their child was never one for after school clubs until now. They can see a change in their child and say the smaller group size has made a massive difference.
The club has given the students a chance to exercise with others that have similar needs to them and encouraged them to get to know each other. They have been able to socialise whilst exercising in a way they may not have been able to in the past. We’ve seen increased confidence in the way the students interact with each other as well as how they interact with PE staff.
Students’ anxiety has been reduced by the small size of the group which has allowed them to enjoy themselves more. One student said, “I like getting to spend time with my friends and think it’s nice to have a grant that helps autistic children like me to exercise too because everyone should get the opportunity”.
These students have really come out of their shells and grown in confidence. Watching them have fun together is fantastic.
Teacher at Cranbourne School
Working towards fitness
One of the things that seems to have worked well is that the club is aimed at improving pupil fitness and physical health. Pupils have enjoyed working to improve their fitness, build muscles and be more active. Parents have commented on how happy their children are when they come home.
One student suffers from body-conscious issues and the club is helping her to change her mindset. She is beginning to realise that exercise is about reaching your own personal goals rather than being skinny or losing weight. The club helps her see herself as strong and beautiful instead of body-shaming herself.
All the pupils involved have improved their motor skills and have increased physical fitness. We’ve seen students that would not normally turn up to PE clubs turn up! These students have really come out of their shells and grown in confidence. Watching them have fun together is fantastic.
Picture: Stock picture not of pupil from teenager from Cranbourne school