Wonder Boy screams, hits himself, scripts, tosses his talker onto the floor.
“Let’s go outside,” I say.
The sky is blue. The sun is bright. There’s a gentle wind. Wonder Boy looks at me from the corner of his eye. “One…” he says.
“Two…” I whisper.
“Three, gooooo!” Half-way down the block, “ooooo’s” glitter in his wake.
Exercise works the proprioceptive and vestibular systems, strengthens hearts and lungs, stimulates appetites, clears minds, directs neurons. Exercise is a brain and body building activity with special benefits for individuals with brain injuries, illnesses and learning differences.
“…exercise…stimulate(s) the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells…”
But in this sedentary age of Netflix and YouTube, how do you get kids moving?
In our house? We lead by example. It’s Janice Huddleston’s fault.
Janice was my mom’s friend and get-up-and-go dealer. She lived at the end of Butterfield, a half-mile long road that coursed the distance between our homes.
Coffee dates with Janice began and ended with Mom panting along the sidewalk in her tennis shoes. “You can do it!” Janice sang.
Once Mom could field the distance between our homes, she expanded her repertoire to include sprints around the high school track.
“Look at my legs!” Mom said. Muscles defined her thighs and outlined her calves.
I splashed Hershey’s syrup on ice cream and shook my head. “Running makes me tired.”
Mom’s pony-tail bounced. “Running creates energy,” she gushed. “It clears your skin and makes your hair and fingernails grow. It gives you whiter teeth!”
Right, I didn’t believe that last one either. But I was the kid and she was the mom, so I rinsed my bowl, laced my shoes and…ran.
I’m naturally round and will never be light-on-my-feet. Hefting my body around a track was like lugging bags of sand through water.
But in the midst of all that red-faced huffing, puffing, grunting and complaining, I developed muscles. Strengthened lungs. Dissolved negative energy.
Exercise has…been linked to better brain health and emotional well-being.
Running never made me skinny. But it banished bad mojo, coordinated physical systems, helped me think. And when I was a mom?
“Run around the tree ten times!” I instructed Super Daddy and his sisters during homeschool PE.
Sure, they huffed, puffed, moaned and complained. Until they were hooked on activity too.
Now, this moment, Wonder Boy detours to the backyard. He climbs a ladder and slips through the trampoline’s netting. He jumps, rolls, tumbles, flips. For hours.
Later, he lays on his back and stares through leaf covered branches at the dappled sky. He listens to the wind and watches trees move.
Autism is complex and moods can seem unpredictable. But in moments following joy-filled physical activity? Wonder Boy’s body and mind are at peace.