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Unlocking Potential: The Benefits of Pilates for Kids with Autism

In recent years, the integration of holistic approaches to support individuals with autism has gained traction, and one such method showing promising results is Pilates. At the Kids Heart Pilates (KHP) clinic, located in the heart of Ashgrove and Caboolture + a mobile clinic, our small boutique paediatric exercise physiology clinic is dedicated to providing specialised, one-on-one Pilates and group sessions for children with autism. We will explore the unique advantages of Pilates for kids on the autism spectrum, with a focus on individualised sessions tailored to their specific needs.

Understanding Autism and Physical Activity:

Children with autism often face challenges in sensory processing, social interaction, and motor coordination. Motor skills are just one part of children's development and include fine (using small muscles) and gross motor skills (using big muscles). 

Children with autism often have difficulty with coordination of both fine and gross motor skills, balance, flexibility, and speed. Unfortunately, these higher rates of motor skill impairments often mean that children with autism are less likely to participate in physical activity. 

However several studies indicate that physical activity is an effective approach to improve motor skill competence, social skills, and communication skills (Hassani et al., 2020). Studies have also found that physical activity improves restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and social skills of children with autism (Toscano et al., 2022). 

Therefore, engaging in physical activities can play a pivotal role in addressing these challenges by promoting sensory integration, fostering social engagement, and enhancing motor skills. Pilates, with its emphasis on controlled movements, breathing, and body awareness, offers a well-rounded approach that can be particularly beneficial for children with autism.

Tailored Approach in Individual Sessions:

One of the key strengths of Pilates lies in its adaptability to individual needs. At KHP, our experienced paediatric exercise physiologists work closely with each child, designing personalised Pilates sessions that cater to their unique strengths and challenges. Individual sessions allow for a tailored approach, enabling us to focus on specific goals such as improving coordination, enhancing balance, developing core strength, and emotional regulation.

Sensory Integration and Body Awareness:

Pilates promotes sensory integration by incorporating movements that engage various muscle groups and stimulate different sensory receptors (Hertzog et al., 2019; Potts et al., 2001). For children with autism, this can contribute to improved body awareness, coordination, and proprioception (Hertzog et al., 2019). It has been discovered that by incorporating sensory integration into sessions, our clinic recognises the importance of creating a sensory-friendly environment, ensuring that children feel comfortable and supported throughout their Pilates sessions.

Social Interaction in a One-on-One Setting:

While group activities can be overwhelming for some children with autism, one-on-one or small group Pilates sessions offer a more controlled and personalised setting. This provides a natural environment for building relationships, increasing the opportunities for interaction, engaging in cooperative play for teamwork, and presenting more opportunities to communicate with others, which are all beneficial for social interaction (Zhao et al., 2018). This also allows for a strong therapeutic alliance to be built between the child and the paediatric exercise physiologist, fostering trust and engagement. Through positive interactions, children may develop social skills and build confidence, contributing to their overall well-being.

The Role of Pilates in Emotional Regulation:

Children with autism may experience challenges in emotional regulation with high levels of disruptive behaviours, self-absorption, and hyperactivity being associated with emotional problems and posing a substantial challenge to daily living (Mazefsky et al., 2013). 

Physical activity and exercise have a positive influence on emotional regulation and behavioural functioning in children with autism (Tsa et al., 2020). Pilates, with its emphasis on mindful breathing and controlled movements, provides a platform for emotional expression and regulation. Through regular sessions, children can develop coping mechanisms, reducing stress and anxiety levels.

Incorporating Pilates into the lives of children with autism can have far-reaching benefits, from improved motor skills to enhanced emotional well-being.

 At Kids Health and Performance, our boutique paediatric exercise physiology clinic in Ashgrove and Caboolture, we are committed to providing individualised Pilates sessions that empower children on the autism spectrum to reach their full potential. Through a holistic approach that addresses both physical and emotional needs, we strive to create a supportive environment where every child can thrive.

Helping people to LEARN & GROW 

through MOVEMENT

Our team of Accredited Exercise Physiologists & Pilates teachers engage you in fun, contemporary and interactive sessions. We understand that everyone's needs are different so we offer an approach that is flexible and dynamic that will suit your very specific needs. 

Our clinicians are experienced in designing personalised solutions that meet your child's individual needs. 

Our sessions are all delivered by Accredited Allied Health professionals and focus on all key areas of development through movement. Early intervention Is the best way to support the development and wellbeing of children with disability or developmental delay. It can help children develop the skills they need to take part in everyday activities.

  • Available under NDIS funding*

  • Individualised therapy & treatment

  • Options for in-home or at-school sessions

  • Small group reformer & mat pilates

Book into a session today:


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