"Champions are those individuals who overcome challenges to be the best they can be."
That's how David Geslak, a noted autism fitness
specialist and president of The Exercise Connection, describes the special champions who team with him in his mission to design fitness
programs, products and tools for children with autism spectrum disorders.
According to Geslak, Exercise Connection champions are all employees who are part of a unique hands-on job training program for teens and young adults with an autism spectrum diagnosis.
Each champion is a former Exercise Connection client, who is trained to prepare and package innovative visual exercise systems marketed to special needs groups, schools and agencies around the world.
Developed during the past year in conjunction with a $12,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield for Community Support Systems in Brookfield, the job training program initially included preparation of 20 visual exercise support systems.
Geslak drew and designed visual prompts, in addition to preparing a color coded training system for his initial champion, Derek Withers, 29, whose ongoing role involves completing daily office responsibilities and building visual exercise supports.Two 16-year-old Exercise Connection champions currently are in training and paid on a piecemeal project completion basis to assist at home.
"Breaking down components into the smallest manageable task is key," Geslak says; he focuses on capabilities rather than disability. "As with the systems we build, visual prompts, support and the ability to find success are critical factors for training Exercise Connection champions."
In addition to individual job roles, Exercise Connection champions occasionally are featured in various instruction and demonstration materials, helping to visually explain different exercises and show versions of activities that can be completed at home, in school and the community.
They also could become part of a new Coach Dave television show designed to help parents and teachers aiding students with autism spectrum disorders as they seek to achieve healthier lifestyles. The show will begin airing this year on Roku Devices for the TV.
Geslak, who says exercise has important health benefits for everyone - especially for those with autism, is the author of the Autism Fitness
Handbook I and II, and Exercise Connection DVD, featuring exercises and techniques for children and students from age four to adulthood.
"Understanding the five components of body image, posture, motor coordination, muscular fitness
and cardiovascular fitness
is vital for physical fitness
for children with autism spectrum disorders," notes Geslak, who says physically active lifestyles should be defined by balance, posture, body awareness, eye-hand, foot-eye coordination, laterality and proprioception or the sense of one's limbs in space.
"Implementing these powerful concepts can build healthier minds and bodies, is vital to growth and development, and can help reduce the progression of some special needs by strengthening neurologic connections or improving trunk stability, balance and coordination," explains the fitness
enthusiast who currently serves as a member of the board of directors of the Autism Society of Illinois.
For information on Exercise Connection Corporation programs and services, visit www.ecautism.com
or call (773) 575-5100.