April Member Services E-Newsletter
posted on 04/02/2010

Issue: #23 April 2, 2010

Teaching Gymnastics to students with Autism

For a gymnastics instructor, teaching a student who has autism can be scary at first. Many of these children can easily be mainstreamed in a class, but others require one on one instruction and have difficulty participating in a busy gym environment. Yes, it may be helpful for the instructor to have a background in special education, but it's not necessary. The parents of a child with autism are usually the best resource. They can share information about the student's physical and mental development, communication skills, and helpful hints about working with the child. Before including a student who has autism in a class, it is best to schedule an interview to introduce the student to the instructor as well as show him/her around the gym. It is important to determine whether the child will be able to participate in a mainstream class, a special needs class, or require one on one instruction.

Once you have enrolled a student with autism in your gym, the adventure begins! Often these children have trouble communicating and expressing their feelings, but when they want to take extra turns on the trampoline and eagerly reach for the high bar, you know they are learning and having fun at gymnastics. I have found that teaching students with special needs has made me a better instructor. I have to be more organized in the structure of my class, break skills down into very minute parts to make sure the students are always safe and successful, and give clear and concise instructions in the same way every time.

Parents of students with autism want the same things for their children that all parents want. Manya Parker says this about her daughter's experience in gymnastics: "I think that gymnastics has helped Darby in all aspects of her life. One of the most important things to me is the upper body strength and coordination. She seems to really enjoy the music, and the movement of it. The rhythmic side of gymnastics got her attention span to really expand from a few minutes in the beginning to the whole class time now. We will continue with gymnastics as long as it helps her and she enjoys it. Darby says gymnastics is really good and she likes the ball, ribbon, and rope the best. Darby also says that she likes to see all her friends at practice."

Children who have autism face challenges in life everyday. Amanda Baskin, whose daughter has taken gymnastics for two years, wrote this: "After a very hard week at school, when Charlotte had been bullied and one child had even told her he was going to shoot her dead, I asked Charlotte what she would like to do that would make her feel better. Without hesitation she said to me "I want to go to gymnastics, it makes me feel good." When all is said and done, children who have autism are just kids. They need a place to learn to run, jump, tumble, swing, balance, and climb. But most of all, they need a place where they feel welcome, and an instructor who believes in them and encourages them to be the best that they can be, no matter what challenges they face in life.

Submitted by Cindy Bickman
USA Gymnastics' Special Olympics contact

Teaching Gymnastics to Students with Autism

Sport for Haiti

2010 National Congress & Trade Show News

"Tyson Recipe for Success" sweepstakes

Safety Matters: Injury Prevention through Preparation


click course title to register

Safety Certification
June 12 - Stroudsburg, PA
August 11 - Hartford, CT

Preschool Fundamentals Pt. 2: Hands on Training
May 22 - Puyallup, WA
August 11 - Hartford, CT

*please check the schedule online to verify course dates and times

Registration now open!



Please join the United States Olympic Committee in Aiding Haiti

The U.S. Olympic Committee is coordinating an effort of the Olympic sports community to help the citizens of Haiti in the wake of the earthquake. The USOC is working in conjunction with the Pan American Sports Organization, Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization and UNICEF to help restore and rebuild sport in Haiti, as well as bring hope to the country through the participation of Haitian athletes in the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games, 2011 Pan American Games and 2012 Olympic Games.

CLICK HERE to find out how you can help

2010 National Congress & Trade Show News

  • Early bird registration is available now! Don't miss this opportunity to register at the discounted early bird price before the May 15th deadline.

  • Register today for the live Safety/Risk Management certification course and the live Preschool Fundamentals: Hands on Training course. Both are scheduled for Wednesday, August 11th. These courses are subject to cancellation if the required minimum registration is not met. Be sure to pre-register today!

  • Be on the look-out in the next few weeks as we share more details about the 2010 Business Owners Conference. This year's conference is really coming together with dynamic presenters speaking on topics that will teach you how to best protect your business and brand. You won't want to miss this educational opportunity! We've also added a reception in the Trade Show hall following the conference so you can be the first to see what's available from the official United States Gymnastics Suppliers Organization vendors.

USA Gymnastics cooks up 'Tyson Recipe for Success' sweepstakes! (Deadline extended until April 9, 2010)

Do your gymnasts or coaches have a favorite snack or meal that they prepare to provide the protein and energy needed for a hard day at the gym? If so, the Tyson Recipe for Success Sweepstakes is their chance to share that recipe and enter for a chance to win the opportunity to prepare the dish for legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi at the U.S. Women's National Team Training Center in Huntsville, Texas! If 20 or more of your gymnasts enter the sweepstakes, your gym club will also be entered for a chance to win one of three great prizes. The sweepstakes ends on Friday, April 9, so make sure all gymnasts, coaches, fans and cooking enthusiasts alike enter their recipes soon!

For the sweepstakes, USA Gymnastics and Tyson Foods have teamed up. Entering is easy, just submit a recipe featuring one of the great Tyson Foods products online. The top three recipe finalists will travel to the Karolyi Ranch to cook their recipes for Bela, who will determine the winner. The winner will be featured on the USA Gymnastics web site and in next year's Tyson Fitness Challenge handbook.

Every gym club that has 20 or more entries will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win the grand prize, a USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show registration bundle that includes free registration, a business conference registration, and a strip of Visa Championships event tickets. Second prize will be free National or Regional Congress registration, and third prize will be four free USA Gymnastics online education courses.


Safety Matters: Injury Prevention via Philosophical Preparation

Gymnastics injury prevention can be divided into five preparation areas: philosophical, physical, technical, tactical and psychological. These areas function as a pyramid, one building upon the other. This is the first of five Safety Matters editions highlighting each of the preparation areas.

Philosophical Preparation is the foundation of the pyramid model.

Philosophical orientation is often the most important, and perhaps the most under-emphasized, aspect of risk management in gymnastics and is at the heart of gymnastics preparation. A safety mind-set and a philosophical orientation towards safety is a fundamental step in enhancing the safety of gymnastics preparation.

Philosophically, safety awareness is paramount to preventing injury and ensuring a valuable experience for everyone in gymnastics. Safety awareness requires vigilance and commitment. A safety mindset should be incorporated into all program policies and decisions. The gymnast should also be encouraged to develop these same philosophical views.

These and other key risk management principles can be found in the new edition of the Gymnastics Risk Management Safety Course Handbook, now available through the USA Gymnastics technical materials online store.


USA Gymnastics is a non-for-profit organization which is the sole national governing body (NGB) for the sport of gymnastics in the United States. Our mission is to increase public awareness of, and encourage participation in, all aspects of gymnastics, and to support athletes in their pursuit of competitive excellence.

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