Trainers and coaches have a fantastic opportunity to train a population that is passionate and ready for improving their daily life.  This population consists of youths, individuals, ADHD, and autistic participants.



Children, teens, and adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, often suffer from the inability to sit still. They squirm in their seats and are easily bored or distracted.  They have lowered resistance to listening, or seem not to process what is being said. They also experience difficulty in following even basic instructions, appear to have a poor memory, and are prone to losing items including school work and personal items. They frequently talk quickly and incessantly as well as experience difficulty in completing tasks. And they sometimes suffer from insomnia;  large and frequent emotional swings; emotional outbursts; and low tolerance of people, situations, and surroundings. Finally, they are prone to anger, hot temper, and unstable personal relationships.


A person with autism is very sensitive to sounds, touches, smells, or sights that seem normal to others. They may have repetitive, stereotyped body movements such as rocking, pacing, or hand flapping. They may have unusual responses to people, attachments to objects, resistance to change in their routines, or aggressive or self-injurious behavior. At times they may seem not to notice people, objects, or activities in their surroundings. Some people with autism are cognitively impaired to a degree. In contrast to more typical cognitive impairment, which is characterized by relatively even delays in all areas of development, people with autism show uneven skill development. They may have problems communicating and relating to others. Despite their challenges, people with autism have fantastic talents such as memorization, art, or knowledge of a specific subject such as trivia, science or social studies.

First of all, the parents are valuable resources.  They can give you information for working with their children.  Second, with the permission of the parents are the other professionals such as teachers, teachers’ assistants,  occupational and physical therapists, speech pathologists, and former professionals who have a history with the participant and can give valuable information.  Once you have gathered that information, you will have a baseline of information that will prove valuable in making a fitness or specific sports program for that youth.

When designing a specific sports or fitness program, you need to make sure that the program is structured. For example, using a visual schedule helps with putting together the program.   Have a structured program such as a dynamic warmup, choice of cardio, specific fitness stations, or themed or skill-related games.

Whenever possible, I try to make the programs autism- or ADHD- centered.  When teaching a sports-specific program, I use stations and allow the youths to choose which station they want to go to first.  If I am doing a program at the gym, I try to structure it with cardio and strength equipment that the clients want to do.  For example, I have had some seasons where my yoga stretching consists of sports-specific stretches as well as cardio that includes weighted ropes and kickboxing.  Despite the extra work, the reward with working with ADHD or autistic clients is unbelievable.  They are the most loyal and hard-working clients you will have.  So break out of your comfort zone and believe you can reach this special population.


Autism Resources

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Christina Chapan

Christina Chapan

Christina Lee Steele Chapan is a certified personal trainer with four certifications from ISSA ACE, AFAA and SCW. She specializes with fitness for children and those adults and children with special needs. In addition to attaining her certifications, she is also a certified elementary and special education school teacher with a B.S. in Elementary Education, a minor in Biblical Studies from North Central University, an endorsement in Special Education, and an M.A. in Curriculum and Development from Governors State University. Her passion is for training the future of tomorrow. She is available for training, speaking and writing.
Christina Chapan

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