Exercise – Vital for the Child with Autism, and his Mom

Jodi Shenal by Jodi Shenal Additional Needs

Jodi Shenal

Jodi Shenal

I'm a stay-at-home mom with two amazing children. My son is on the Autism spectrum and my daughter has a rare genetic disorder and multiple disabil...

Picture the scene: a frazzled mother with her head in her hands, and a child desperate to focus, while trying to sit still long enough to learn to multiply fractions.

The mother sees laundry piling up around her, dishes in the sink, and feels her patience fading as she tries to help the child remain on task.

The child is frustrated; feeling misunderstood.

It’s not his fault that he has oodles of excess energy to burn.  The mother is tired and feels like she is drowning as the day is growing shorter, and there are numerous lessons remaining to finish.

This scenario is a typical homeschool day at our house.

Or, at least it has been until we discovered a magical component that had been missing from our routine.  EXERCISE!!

Mothers of children with special needs experience stress that can be compared to PTSD.

When you have two children with special needs (one with multiple disabilities), some days the stress is absolutely crushing.

It’s hard to breathe.

“How will we make it through the day?”

“How will we accomplish all the tasks before us today?”

For the longest time, I simply loaded myself up with strong coffee and started each day with a less than positive attitude, complaining when things didn’t go as planned.

We possess a gym membership, but for a long time, it had gone unused.  “Who has time for that?” was always my excuse.

When my mother decided to start working out and to put her health first, we thought it would be a good idea to join her, in support.

Soon I realized that spending time with my dear mother, chatting as we burned calories on the elliptical machine, was promoting a sense of well-being in my life that I greatly needed.

While we worked out, my son ran on a treadmill and rode a stationary bicycle next to us.

He loved being active and felt a sense of calmness as the endorphins started kicking in.

Quickly we realized that when we started our day with exercise, it set a positive tone.

We finished school work faster, and with phenomenally better attitudes.

The energy breaks needed throughout the day were lessened.

I even had the energy and the mindset to get my work around the house knocked out.

We were HAPPIER!!

On some days, my son and I skip the gym and we go for therapeutic walks outside. We discuss his favorite topic, video games, as we walk.

This allows us to begin our day without stress and with our minds fully relaxed.

Why didn’t we try this sooner? I’m overjoyed that we spend much less time arguing over schedules and school assignments now.

I don’t feel like I’m drowning anymore. Life will never be easy, but we’ve found our way to better mental and physical health.

When you have those two key elements on your side, the challenges you face become easier to tackle.


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