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Snowshoeing Adventures Increase Stamina and Independence in Autism

February 28, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 197

The winters in South Dakota can get a little long. The one we experienced this year has been pretty mild. I figure it is because I planned ahead and bought some snowshoes so that my autistic daughter and I could continue our walks with Ed the dog throughout the winter. Oh the irony!

The snow did finally come. Once the temperature was not so cold that it could break our faces we excitedly began our first adventure on snowshoes. We methodically plodded along the occasional steep and more frequently sloping trails on our acreage.

During our first outing with the snowshoes we figured out how we went wrong with fastening the straps. We have great snowshoes and it was a quick and easy lesson to learn. We also determined when the poles come in handy and when we can switch off, or only use one. The dog needs to be on a leash, so it is nice if I can get by with using one pole.

Other important lessons about snowshoeing...

A person who is snowshoeing typically cannot turn on a dime when needed. A snowshoeing dog walker must let go of the leash when the dog decides to change directions in order to chase a deer. I cannot turn like a pretzel simply because my dog decided to change direction and run...

It is hard to run in a foot of snow with snowshoes on -- while chasing a dog. My daughter and I are grateful that it is also hard for our dog to run in a foot of snow. Ecstatic is the feeling that describes a fifty year old mom who figured out she can pivot, run, and leap into a face-plant in the snow (in snowshoes) - in order to finally grab a dog's leash!

The first impression of snowshoeing was a lasting one for my 19 yr old daughter. She really loves it. Among many benefits that I noted, I found that it improved her walking (gait). She began to pick up her feet instead of shuffling when she walks.

Increasing Physical Activity in Individuals With Autism (Teri Todd, Greg Reid) points to the benefits of snowshoeing as part of an overall fitness program for those on the severe end of the autism spectrum. The use of snowshoeing, walking and jogging as part of an overall fitness program over a six month period was found to eventually contribute to successful self-monitoring -- engaged upon by autism affected individuals.

"...we have shown that as traditional edible reinforcers were eliminated and verbal cuing declined, distance snowshoed, walked, and jogged increased."*

During the beginning stages of the studied fitness program, researchers utilized self-monitoring boards akin to token economy, edible reinforcement, and verbal encouragement -- in order to keep the subjects engaged in the activity. The edible reinforcement and verbal encouragement were no longer contingent upon success toward the end of the study period. Self-monitoring is felt to be responsible for improvement in participation, while also contributing to the reduction in need for edible or verbal reinforcement.

*Increasing Physical Activity in Individuals With Autism - FOCUS ON AUTISM AND OTHER DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES; VOLUME 21, NUMBER 3, FALL 2006, PAGES 167-176.

Source: EzineArticles
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Snowshoeing Adventures


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