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A Fit for Fitness: Exercise for Kids with Special Needs

08/01/2017 08:29AM, Published by Digital Media Director, Categories: In Print, Health, Parenting, Family, Today



By: Sharon Bethke, Special Strengths Fitness LLC

Families impacted with autism, down syndrome and other physical and cognitive disabilities are continuously trying to improve their child’s life through diet, cognitive and other behavioral and motor therapies. While all of these strategies are vital during early childhood, parents are often unsure how to meet those needs later in childhood, adolescence and beyond.

In addition to the health benefits, regular exercise helps children with autism improve balance and voluntary motor movement, decrease the occurrence of interruptive stereotypic behaviors, improve social competence, attain agility and confidence, and relief for comorbidities.

One of the hallmarks of autism is difficulty with motor activities. This can make participating in organized sports challenging or impossible. Specific and structured fitness activities can help those who have difficulty with gait, leaning forward properly and/or activities that cross the midline of the body or lack of muscle tone in the trunk leading to instability.

Another common trait in autism is behavioral disturbances. Studies have shown vigorous aerobic exercise can be utilized to control nonfunctional behaviors associated with autism. Stereotypical behaviors such as body rocking, spinning, head-nodding, hand flapping, object-tapping, and light gazing, which have been shown to interfere with positive social behavior and learning, can be decreased by the use of exercise.

A lack of physical activity holds many health risks that are often exaggerated in the special needs population. Beginning in the toddler years, youngsters with Autism Spectrum Disorder have a higher risk of being overweight or obese. Teenagers with autism are more than twice as likely to be obese as adolescents who don't have a developmental disability. This leads to higher rates of health conditions that can be caused or aggravated by obesity, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

What is the answer? For many children, exercise is provided in occupational and physical therapy. But when they have met their milestones or insurance runs out, it unfortunately comes to an end. As teenagers and young adults, their need for movement and sensory integration doesn’t stop, and exercise helps fill the gap.

Unfortunately, most people think of fitness and team sports as interchangeable—and few people with special needs have the social, collaborative and physical skills to do well in typical American team sports. Fitness is about exercising and strengthening the entire body, building not only specific skills but also cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength and flexibility. Mainstream fitness centers are not adequately structured or staffed to assess individuals with special needs.

For individuals on the autism spectrum, fitness and exercise are often overlooked as life skills, however there is an abundance of research and clinical evidence supporting the dramatic benefits of implementing fitness programs for special needs populations. This specialized area of fitness is virtually unexplored and has created a significant demand for programs that are inviting, caring and effective.



special needs fitness exercise Special Strengths Fitness


  • Young Frankenstein Camp

    08/16/2017
    08:30AM — 05:30PM

    Camp rehearsals run August 7 - 20 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm) and performances will be A...


  • Little All Stars

    08/16/2017
    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • Join us at the Museum of Visual Materials for these free activities. No registration is required ...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

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    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • WomenUnite Event

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    11:30AM — 01:00PM

    Since 2005, Sioux Empire United Way's WomenUnite Event has served as a way to connect women in ou...


  • Milk Monologues

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    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    Join Shelly (CLC) or Sarah if you are the mom of a non-mobile nursing baby. One of them will be a...


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    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    ALL AGES are welcome to join us for a different craft each week! Free!


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    06:30PM — 08:00PM

    Today’s families often have limited opportunities to connect with the natural environment through...


  • Young Frankenstein Camp

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    Camp rehearsals run August 7 - 20 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm) and performances will be A...


  • Skyzone Toddler Time

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    09:30AM — 11:30AM

    Toddler Time is a great shared experience for child and parent. A time for your little ones to di...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

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    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


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    08:30AM — 05:30PM

    Camp rehearsals run August 7 - 20 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm) and performances will be A...


  • Homestead Orchard

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    Friday 10 am - 6pm Saturdays 10 am - 6 pm Sundays 1 pm- 5 pm Our assortment of a...


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    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


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  • Young Frankenstein Camp

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    Camp rehearsals run August 7 - 20 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm) and performances will be A...


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    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


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    Friday 10 am - 6pm Saturdays 10 am - 6 pm Sundays 1 pm- 5 pm Our assortment of a...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

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    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


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    Hope you are all ready for an amazing crop of apples this year...and there are LOTS!!! Can not wa...


  • Heartland Country Corn Maze

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  • Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Corn Maze

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    Welcome to the Corn Maze at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park. Over 7 acres of twists, turns and dead end...


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  • Homestead Orchard

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    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


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    08/16/2017
    08:30AM — 05:30PM

    Camp rehearsals run August 7 - 20 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm) and performances will be A...


  • Little All Stars

    08/16/2017
    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • Join us at the Museum of Visual Materials for these free activities. No registration is required ...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/16/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • WomenUnite Event

    08/16/2017
    11:30AM — 01:00PM

    Since 2005, Sioux Empire United Way's WomenUnite Event has served as a way to connect women in ou...


  • Milk Monologues

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    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    Join Shelly (CLC) or Sarah if you are the mom of a non-mobile nursing baby. One of them will be a...


  • Weird Art Wednesday

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    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    ALL AGES are welcome to join us for a different craft each week! Free!


  • Family Fishing

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    06:30PM — 08:00PM

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  • Young Frankenstein Camp

    08/17/2017
    08:30AM — 05:30PM

    Camp rehearsals run August 7 - 20 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm) and performances will be A...


  • Skyzone Toddler Time

    08/17/2017
    09:30AM — 11:30AM

    Toddler Time is a great shared experience for child and parent. A time for your little ones to di...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/17/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • New Baby & Me

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    01:30PM — 03:30PM

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  • Birth Boot Camp Childbirth Class Series

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  • Young Frankenstein Camp

    08/18/2017
    08:30AM — 05:30PM

    Camp rehearsals run August 7 - 20 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm) and performances will be A...


  • Homestead Orchard

    08/18/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Friday 10 am - 6pm Saturdays 10 am - 6 pm Sundays 1 pm- 5 pm Our assortment of a...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/18/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Heartland Country Corn Maze

    08/18/2017
    05:00PM — 09:00PM

    Heartland Country Corn Maze offers fun for the whole family! Enjoy a walk through the wonderful n...


  • Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Corn Maze

    08/18/2017
    05:00PM — 09:00PM

    Welcome to the Corn Maze at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park. Over 7 acres of twists, turns and dead end...


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  • Young Frankenstein Camp

    08/19/2017
    08:30AM — 05:30PM

    Camp rehearsals run August 7 - 20 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm) and performances will be A...


  • Little All Stars

    08/19/2017
    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • Homestead Orchard

    08/19/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Friday 10 am - 6pm Saturdays 10 am - 6 pm Sundays 1 pm- 5 pm Our assortment of a...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/19/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Hoversten Orchard

    08/19/2017
    12:00PM

    Hope you are all ready for an amazing crop of apples this year...and there are LOTS!!! Can not wa...


  • Heartland Country Corn Maze

    08/19/2017
    12:00PM — 09:00PM

    Heartland Country Corn Maze offers fun for the whole family! Enjoy a walk through the wonderful n...


  • Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Corn Maze

    08/19/2017
    12:00PM — 09:00PM

    Welcome to the Corn Maze at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park. Over 7 acres of twists, turns and dead end...


  • Great Plains Zoo Bookworms Reading Program

    08/19/2017
    01:00PM — 01:30PM

    Bookworms Reading Program in the KELOLAND Education Center at the Great Plains Zoo. Join local ce...


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    08/19/2017
    02:00PM — 04:30PM

    Call us by Friday 605-978-0991 and you can come in and decorate cookies on Saturday! We do cookie...


  • Mommies Matter: A Post Partum Support Group

    08/19/2017
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    Monthly on the third Saturday


  • Downtown Riverfest

    08/19/2017
    04:00PM — 11:00PM

    Enjoy live music, art, kids' activities, food, beverage, retail vendors and more at the 5th annua...


  • Riverfest

    08/19/2017
    04:00PM — 11:00PM

    Celebrate the Big Sioux River in style at the 5th Annual Downtown Riverfest! Great Western Bank m...


  • Moonlight Movies

    08/19/2017
    08:30PM

    Bring a blanket or chair, and enjoy a free outdoor movie in the park! Popcorn, candy, soda and w...


  • Young Frankenstein Camp

    08/20/2017
    08:30AM — 05:30PM

    Camp rehearsals run August 7 - 20 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm) and performances will be A...


  • Homestead Orchard

    08/20/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Friday 10 am - 6pm Saturdays 10 am - 6 pm Sundays 1 pm- 5 pm Our assortment of a...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/20/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Hoversten Orchard

    08/20/2017
    12:00PM

    Hope you are all ready for an amazing crop of apples this year...and there are LOTS!!! Can not wa...


  • Heartland Country Corn Maze

    08/20/2017
    12:00PM — 05:00PM

    Heartland Country Corn Maze offers fun for the whole family! Enjoy a walk through the wonderful n...


  • Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Corn Maze

    08/20/2017
    01:00PM — 05:00PM

    Welcome to the Corn Maze at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park. Over 7 acres of twists, turns and dead end...


  • Join us at the Museum of Visual Materials for these free activities. No registration is required ...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

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    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Join us at the Museum of Visual Materials for these free activities. No registration is required ...


  • Skyzone Toddler Time

    08/22/2017
    09:30AM — 11:30AM

    Toddler Time is a great shared experience for child and parent. A time for your little ones to di...


  • Storytime Tuesdays

    08/22/2017
    10:00AM — 10:30AM

    Bring your kids to a storytime every Tuesday at Child's Play Toys. It starts off with a few songs...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/22/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Little All Stars

    08/23/2017
    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • Join us at the Museum of Visual Materials for these free activities. No registration is required ...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

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    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Hoversten Orchard

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    12:00PM

    Hope you are all ready for an amazing crop of apples this year...and there are LOTS!!! Can not wa...


  • Milk Monologues

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    01:00PM — 02:00PM

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    04:00PM — 06:00PM

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    09:30AM — 11:30AM

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  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/24/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Hoversten Orchard

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    12:00PM

    Hope you are all ready for an amazing crop of apples this year...and there are LOTS!!! Can not wa...


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  • Homestead Orchard

    08/25/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Friday 10 am - 6pm Saturdays 10 am - 6 pm Sundays 1 pm- 5 pm Our assortment of a...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/25/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


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    11:30AM — 01:00PM

    Did you know eating outside is a natural mood booster? Join us for the lunch hour and boost your ...


  • Hoversten Orchard

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    12:00PM

    Hope you are all ready for an amazing crop of apples this year...and there are LOTS!!! Can not wa...


  • Heartland Country Corn Maze

    08/25/2017
    05:00PM — 09:00PM

    Heartland Country Corn Maze offers fun for the whole family! Enjoy a walk through the wonderful n...


  • Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Corn Maze

    08/25/2017
    05:00PM — 09:00PM

    Welcome to the Corn Maze at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park. Over 7 acres of twists, turns and dead end...


  • The Greatest Show on H20 Catfish Bay

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    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    The Greatest Show On H2O at Catfish Bay is a fun family event. The show has comedy, acting, and m...


  • Falls Park Farmer's Market

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    08:00AM — 01:00PM

    Falls Park Farmers Market is the place to get your weekly supply of fresh flowers, vegetables, me...


  • Little All Stars

    08/26/2017
    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


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    09:30AM — 11:00AM

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  • Homestead Orchard

    08/26/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Friday 10 am - 6pm Saturdays 10 am - 6 pm Sundays 1 pm- 5 pm Our assortment of a...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/26/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Hoversten Orchard

    08/26/2017
    12:00PM

    Hope you are all ready for an amazing crop of apples this year...and there are LOTS!!! Can not wa...


  • Heartland Country Corn Maze

    08/26/2017
    12:00PM — 09:00PM

    Heartland Country Corn Maze offers fun for the whole family! Enjoy a walk through the wonderful n...


  • Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Corn Maze

    08/26/2017
    12:00PM — 09:00PM

    Welcome to the Corn Maze at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park. Over 7 acres of twists, turns and dead end...


  • YMCA Gymnastics 1st Birthday Bash

    08/26/2017
    01:00PM — 05:00PM

    They YMCA Gymnastics Program will be celebrating it's 1st full year of Gymnastics in Sioux Falls!...


  • Great Plains Zoo Bookworms Reading Program

    08/26/2017
    01:00PM — 01:30PM

    Bookworms Reading Program in the KELOLAND Education Center at the Great Plains Zoo. Join local ce...


  • Saturday Cookie Decorating Days

    08/26/2017
    02:00PM — 04:30PM

    Call us by Friday 605-978-0991 and you can come in and decorate cookies on Saturday! We do cookie...


  • McCrossan Boys Ranch Xtreme Event Rodeo

    08/26/2017
    05:30PM — 09:00PM

    Saddle Up! It’s time again for the McCrossan Boys Ranch Xtreme Event Challenge. Featuring only th...


  • Homestead Orchard

    08/27/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Friday 10 am - 6pm Saturdays 10 am - 6 pm Sundays 1 pm- 5 pm Our assortment of a...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/27/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Hoversten Orchard

    08/27/2017
    12:00PM

    Hope you are all ready for an amazing crop of apples this year...and there are LOTS!!! Can not wa...


  • Heartland Country Corn Maze

    08/27/2017
    12:00PM — 05:00PM

    Heartland Country Corn Maze offers fun for the whole family! Enjoy a walk through the wonderful n...


  • Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Corn Maze

    08/27/2017
    01:00PM — 05:00PM

    Welcome to the Corn Maze at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park. Over 7 acres of twists, turns and dead end...


  • Join us at the Museum of Visual Materials for these free activities. No registration is required ...


  • Little All Stars

    08/28/2017
    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/28/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Latches

    08/28/2017
    06:30PM — 08:00PM

    Breastfeeding takes a village. Nourish your baby in a safe, comfortable place, surrounded by your...


  • Help Me Manage My Feelings

    08/28/2017
    06:30PM — 08:30PM

    Young children are learning how to manage their feelings. This skill is key to developing friends...


  • Join us at the Museum of Visual Materials for these free activities. No registration is required ...


  • Skyzone Toddler Time

    08/29/2017
    09:30AM — 11:30AM

    Toddler Time is a great shared experience for child and parent. A time for your little ones to di...


  • Storytime

    08/29/2017
    10:00AM — 10:30AM

    Bring your kids to a storytime every Tuesday at Child's Play Toys. It starts off with a few songs...


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/29/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Little All Stars

    08/30/2017
    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • Join us at the Museum of Visual Materials for these free activities. No registration is required ...


  • Little All Stars

    08/30/2017
    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • Inflatables and PlayDome

    08/30/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    The County Fair has family entertainment for kids of any age—from our inflatables and Play Dome j...


  • Hoversten Orchard

    08/30/2017
    12:00PM

    Hope you are all ready for an amazing crop of apples this year...and there are LOTS!!! Can not wa...


  • Milk Monologues

    08/30/2017
    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    Join Shelly (CLC) or Sarah if you are the mom of a non-mobile nursing baby. One of them will be a...


  • Weird Art Wednesday

    08/30/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    ALL AGES are welcome to join us for a different craft each week! Free!