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Special Needs Adults

In 2013, I began working with special needs adults. I have trained a variety of young adults over the last decade with autism and Down Syndrome, and it’s been a rewarding experience.

Working with the special needs adult population is a little different from training other clients; however, there are also similarities. Each individual is unique, and personal training is tailored to meet each client’s individual needs.

Let’s look at the benefits of personal training for these two populations:

Personal Training for Special Needs Adults: Autism

Young adults with autism run the spectrum when it comes to personality and abilities. Some are very reserved and some are outgoing. Some have better control of the way they move. Others have challenges with body control. However, most benefit from personal training. They become stronger and improve their cardiovascular capabilities, and there are other benefits such as:

  • Sensory Integration: By showing these young adults the correct way to move with a particular exercise, they are able to gain body awareness, coordination, and control.
  • Stress Reduction: Some young adults with autism like to have pressure applied to their joints. It calms them and makes them less anxious. By incorporating a strength training regimen, not only are they becoming stronger, but it also helps them with any anxiety they may be experiencing.
  • Body Control: By incorporating a well-designed strength and cardiovascular training program and by showing them the correct way to do an exercise, these young adults gain better control of their bodies. I noticed there are times when their movement is awkward and out of control. By learning the correct way to do a movement, they gain the control they need to accomplish the exercise correctly so they do not hurt themselves. And by continuously adjusting and tweaking the movements, they are able to have better coordination in their everyday movements.
  • Attention Span: Working one-on-one with a personal trainer helps lengthen attention span. Parents have noted that simple instructions used in this relationship help them succeed in other areas in life whether at work or home.
  • Limiting of Repetitive Behavior: Keeping exercise routines focused and on-task helps clients with autism improve their mental flexibility and break the obsessive behaviors that some of them display.

Exercise routine with Besa, who is one out of many special needs adults I train.I like the weights. I like to make them go up and down, and in and out with my arms and legs. They make me get stronger. Dennis rocks, and he is teaching me cool stuff about exercise.
—Besa Haise

Nathan personal trainingOur son, Nathan, has made quantum improvements in coordination, strength and self confidence since he began personal training with Dennis. We are definitely glad we decided to work with a personal trainer to help Nathan improve in these areas
—Debbie and Philip Beers

Personal Training for Special Needs Adults: Down Syndrome

Young adults with Down syndrome have different needs and challenges. The benefits of a specific personal training program for kids with Down syndrome are the following:

  • Muscle Tone Improvement: Strength training gives them better muscle tone. People with Down syndrome are genetically predisposed to have weak muscle tone. And since muscles act as supports for our bones and joints, low muscle tone can result in loose ligaments and hyper-mobility. By incorporating a strength training program, we help build lean muscle tissue, which will help them become stronger, give additional support and stability for their joints and develop better overall coordination.
  • Weight Management: Young adults with Down syndrome are predisposed to weight gain. Genetically they are at risk of gaining weight easier and faster than most of us. As they age, they will be more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes and the like. A regular one-on-one personal training program will help them lose weight and become healthier.
  • Heart Strengthening: The cardiovascular capability of young adults with Down syndrome is lower than that of other people. By working with them on their aerobic capabilities, we can increase cardiovascular output, which helps with the strength of their heart and lungs, stamina, and overall well-being.

Fitness training with Alli, one of my personal training clients with Down Syndrome.My daughter, Alli, benefits from personal training time with Dennis in so many ways. The exercises she does improve her strength, muscle tone and coordination. Her interaction with Dennis helps her communication skills and her ability to follow multi-step instructions. The convenience of Dennis doing the personal training in our home makes it much easier to build healthy habits and avoid excuses for not exercising. I am always happy when Alli is escaping screen time on her iPad and is up and moving and interacting with people.
—Jennifer Pond

For people in both populations, working with a personal trainer helps improve memory, increase self-confidence and boost their stamina. These are important mental, psychological and physical gains.

Overall, an individualized personal training program for these young adults helps them not only physically, but also emotionally and behaviorally. Since each person is one of a kind, a specific one-on-one personal training program gives me the opportunity to meet specific needs and set individual goals. Parents benefit from these personal training programs too by seeing that their kids are working on skills and successes that will uplift them in everyday life.