Hey, it’s Daniel Stein, the founder and owner of Special Strong and Strong Education. I started Special Strong because of my own personal journey through healing the symptoms my ADHD with fitness and nutrition, but I started Strong Education because I wanted other personal trainers to be better equipped to help clients with special needs, including ADHD, autism, limited mobility, and much more. In this blog, I’m just a fitness expert sharing useful tips about personal training for special needs.
If you’ve taken a course for a personal training certification for special needs clients, then you’re probably familiar with the unique distractions that your clients may undergo. Your client can very easily be taken out of the mindset required for optimum fitness when presented with these triggers:
- The tag of their shirt rubbing against their skin.
- The displeasing texture of the dumbbells.
- A gym employee mentioned a top they find particularly engaging.
- The sandpaper feel of their tongue, now dry from dehydration.
There are countless others. You won’t always be able to predict what will distract your client, but you can try to be one step ahead.
Know When to Give Hands-On Assistance (and When Not To!)
During the initial assessment with your special needs client, you’ll have to be a little hands-on, helping them into postures and exercise positions that they might not be able to get into with just your verbal instruction as a guide. Your client may continue to require hands-on assistance throughout your time together, but it’s important to give them the option to try an exercise on their own. Your client may not improve as quickly if they know you’ll be there to help them.
Always Give Your Clients a Choice
Offering your client a choice as to which exercises they perform helps them practice independent decision making. Not only are you teaching fitness and improving longevity, but you’re also teaching valuable life skills. All you have to do is treat your special needs clients with the same respect you would give you able-bodied and able-minded ones.
Engage with the Client’s Caregiver as Much as Your Client
Some of the personal trainers I work with make the mistake of engaging more with their clients’ caregivers than their clients. I find that this is especially true when the client has a severe intellectual disability like autism or Down Syndrome. Conversely, I myself have been guilty of ignoring my clients’ caregivers altogether, hoping to encourage independence in my clients. Neither situation is the right thing to do with your client, however. It’s important to engage your client’s caregiver as much as your client so you are both encouraging independence and also gaining insight into the client’s progress that they would be otherwise unable to communicate.
Ready to Get Personal Training Special Populations Certified?
Strong Education teaches personal trainers, parents, and professionals how to adapt fitness for children, adolescents, and adults with autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities through our online special needs certification course.