WORDS BY ERICA NEWTON, MYFIRSTGYM CO-FOUNDER
MyFirstGym on any given day can be a busy, loud and dare I say, even chaotic place to be. There’s music playing, excited shouting and laughter, kids jumping, balls flying and coaches exercising control and encouragement over it all. For parents of neurodivergent children, the very thought of walking into a MFG sounds like a bad idea at best, and a cataclysmic sensory overload at worst. Why bother at all?
Physical activity is crucial for neurodivergent children.
79 percent of autistic children have movement impairments. Throw in an inactive lifestyle and the risk factors for serious health issues significantly increase. Neurodivergent children can have higher incidences of higher body mass and composition, gastrointestinal issues, metabolic disturbances and sleep problems. Physical activity reduces these risk factors but has also shown to decrease negative behaviours, increase mood, improve coping skills, and enhance overall quality of life.
Decreased lethargy and anxiety, improved attention, and access to social engagement are also hallmarks of regular exercise for neurodivergent children. This all translates to the ability to actively and successfully engage in day-to-day tasks with an overall improvement in daily life. For our neurodivergent kids, this means exercise is very important!
We’ve always said any kind of movement is better than none. For neurodivergent kids though, there are a couple of stand outs:
–Martial Arts has been singled out as being particularly beneficial for social skills and behaviour in young children and adolescents with autism. One study showed that children with ASD who underwent a 14-weeks training program in karate exercise-routines showed a significant reduction in communication deficit and improvements in stereotypic behaviours. Interestingly, these improvements were observed for up to 1 month after completion of the program!
-Dance has also been shown to have positive effect on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) associated symptoms: “These included improved social involvement, behaviour, communication skills, body awareness, and mental health.”
-Then there’s the ‘full body’ exercises, which increase coordination, strength, endurance, and body awareness. These include bear crawls, medicine ball slams and jumping jacks, all exercises we promote in our MFGFit and MFGFitClub
And the sensory overload? How can MFG help neurodivergent children?
One of the very first parents to join MFG was a single mother with five children. Each of her children presented with a range of challenges ranging from sensory processing disorders to ADHD and ASD. We felt so honoured she had chosen us! In consultation with her, we kept the lights and music low for their first sessions. The children became comfortable and at ease in the MFG environment quickly, and began to try more classes. The more they came into the gym, the more their behaviours improved. Friends, family and their therapists noticed a significant improvement in their behaviour and aggression. The kids were happy at the gym, where all the coaches and staff knew them by name, and their beautiful mum could enjoy a break from the constant work of 5 kids under 10 all with challenges. How great is that?
It all comes back to our commitment to providing a safe, supportive environment to inspire every child to move.
Our clubs are dedicated to making MFG a caring and encouraging space. Pop in to your nearest MFG club, and see how we can help you and your child thrive through movement.
And guess what?
This month is our Charity Month, where we’re dedicated to giving back to the community.
MyFirstGym is passionate about inspiring movement in children throughout Australia. However, we understand that not all children have the same opportunities to access programs like ours due to circumstances beyond their control.
That’s why MyFirstGym has proudly partnered with Barnardos Australia. Throughout September, we’re on a mission to raise $30,000 for a special cause. Our goal is to provide a bus that will transport children to and from a Barnardos Learning Centre. This bus will not only grant access to more children who might otherwise struggle with transportation, but it will also open doors to educational visits, cultural excursions, and activity-based venues – just like MyFirstGym!
We believe that every child deserves a chance to learn, grow, and thrive, regardless of their circumstances. By supporting this initiative, you’re not just helping us achieve our goal; you’re becoming a Champion for Children, making a positive impact on young lives and shaping a brighter future.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all MyFirstGym members for joining us in supporting Barnardos Australia- you can donate here. Together, we’re making a difference and creating a better world for children who deserve every opportunity. 🌈🚌💙