Expert tips for helping kids with autism be more active – Part 2

Regular exercise is important for everyone’s overall health no matter your age. For children with autism, physical activity can help in surprising ways beyond fitness, which is in and of itself so important because kids with autism are at a higher risk of being overweight.

If you’d like to learn more about why physical activity matters for children with autism and how it can benefit their development in many areas, click here to check out Part 1 of this blog.

In this second and final installment, we’re going to explore how to add exercise or more physical activities to your child’s routine and important advice to keep in mind as you get started.

Let’s just jump in!


One-size doesn’t fit all

Expert Dr. Jean Gehricke reminds us that all kids with autism are different and have likes and dislikes as well as unique goals for their development. It’s important, therefore, to be keenly aware of what your child enjoys and what kind of activities they feel inclined to do naturally. Does your child like running around? Do they bounce up and down? Watch them when they’re relaxed and being themselves and take your cue from their behavior to find a physical activity they might like or be good at.

He says the goal isn’t about making your child competitive. It’s about getting them engaged in a physical activity they can view as a hobby, something they have a connection to and stays with them as they grow.

The CDC recommends all children should get at least an hour of physical activity a day. But another expert, Dr. Sean Healy, says that’s a great goal for children with autism. However, his advice is to start small, be patient, and build up to the CDC’s recommendation. “We’ve found that shorter periods of physical activity, spaced throughout the day, tend to be easier to maintain. The goal is to make physical activity a regular and enjoyable part of daily life.”


Choosing the right activities

Dr. Healey also recommends trying more than one activity with your child to see what works and what doesn’t. Focus should be on adding activities to your child’s routine that promote:

  • Fitness – An activity that gets their heart going or makes them breathe heavier than normal.
  • Social interaction – A goal for most children with autism. It can be as simple as playing catch with another person.
  • Independence – Something they can do successfully alone at home, like yoga. You can even turn on a video to help.

While team sports might be too much right out of the gate, you can help them work up to it by encouraging them to do fun activities that build their motor skills, like running, jumping, hopping, and skipping. It’s also beneficial to give your child the opportunity to play with different types of equipment, including balls, bats, and rackets, as they learn to throw, catch, kick, and strike.

In addition, there are also basic exercises based in Occupational Therapy your child can do at home that can benefit their strength, coordination, balance, and body awareness. These exercises include bear crawls, throwing medicine balls, star jumps (when you start in a crouched position and jump up, creating a star with your arms and legs), arm circles, and mirror exercises (where your child mirrors what someone else doing).

If you’re looking for simple activities, these ideas for adding physical activities to you and your child’s routine could do the trick. You can:

  • Have your child walk to school at least one way, accompanying them if necessary
  • Walk your dog together, if you have one
  • Turn commercials on TV into exercise breaks, doing things you can simply stand up in place and do, like jumping jacks
  • Head to the park after dinner every night when weather permits, walking instead of driving if it’s doable

Remember, the best approach is to start small. Begin with a few minutes here and there during your child’s day, gradually increasing the duration of physical activity until your child reaches the ideal daily hour of exercise recommended by the CDC. You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make.


Tips for teaching your child to exercise

  • Use positive reinforcement. Tell them they’re doing a great job and encourage them to keep going.
  • Use verbal or visual cues to help guide them through the movements of a physical activity to decrease the chances of them getting frustrated.
  • Create a visual schedule with two columns, where they can check off each exercise or activity as they accomplish them.
  • Break an activity down into smaller parts to make it easier for your child to learn.
  • Have your child repeat exercises or physical activities so it becomes familiar and builds their confidence.

Obviously, your participation and guidance is vital to your child’s success when it comes to being more energetic and engaged in physical activities. Set a good example by modeling a healthy lifestyle that’s beneficial and enjoyable. If you don’t exercise yourself, now’s the time to start with your child and your whole family!

To learn more about getting your child with autism more active, contact our team of autism and ABA therapy experts for advice.



Autism Speaks (here and here)





Ashvina attended University of Bombay and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce. She got her Montessori Diploma in 1985 and taught ever since. Ashvina came to TBE in January of 2016 as Admin Assistant. During the years she got the opportunity to learn and work in different departments such as HR, Finance, Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Last summer TBE bought billing in house and her current focus area is Revenue Cycle Management. She is detail oriented and enjoys working with people. Ashvina volunteers to deliver meals to seniors and local shelters on the weekend. She loves to spend time with her family and grandkids. Ashvina loves her job because she enjoys hearing different points of view, and she feels her contributions help fuel the direction of our company.

Working with children comes naturally to Angela. Her mom was a special education teacher for 30 years and often had Angela join her for Take Your Child to Work Day. And in high school, Angela spent every summer as the nanny for a little boy with an autism spectrum disorder. It was this experience where her passion for working with children with autism started to blossom.

From there, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in a non-normative development class and from that moment knew that ABA would be her life’s work.

Angela moved to the DFW area shortly after and began working at The Behavior Exchange as a therapist. She worked on her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the same time. A year after graduating, she earned certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Now, as a Clinical Director at The Behavior Exchange, she brings a life-long passion to her work, holding a special place in her heart for children with limited language skills and working closely with families to develop healthy sleep habits.

Danielle’s passion for working with families is deeply personal and from the heart. Her younger brother has an autism spectrum disorder, and through their journey as a family, she found her purpose in life as an advocate for individuals with special needs.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Danielle began volunteering at The Behavior Exchange. She saw passionate therapists, meaningful change for clients, and families with hope for the future. After a summer of volunteering, she officially joined the team as Director of Admissions and found her home with The Behavior Exchange family.

With her extensive experience working as a client advocate with insurance providers, Danielle perseveres to help individuals of all ages and abilities receive the services they need to reach their full potential. She feels truly honored by each and every family who entrusts The Behavior Exchange to be part of their journey and is committed to the organization’s core values, mission, and goal of being a beacon of hope for the community.

Adam has always had a passion for helping individuals of all ages thrive and reach their full potential. He’s also an enthusiastic musician, songwriter, leader, and devoted family man, who has been helping children and team members grow with The Behavior Exchange since 2010.

Prior to joining the team at The Behavior Exchange, Adam was a mortgage loan consultant and grad student, pursuing his master’s degree in Education at the University of North Texas. He graduated in 2013 and also earned a graduate academic certificate in Autism Intervention. The following year, after years as a Behavior Therapist and seeing first-hand the power of ABA and the meaningful impact it can have on children and their families, Adam became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He then commenced from the Stagen Leadership Academy after completing the Integral Leadership Program (ILP), a 52-week practice-based program designed to develop executives serious about transforming themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

Adam is truly grateful to be a part of a dynamic, inspiring and compassionate team, and he’s dedicated to bettering the lives of all children and their families through the delivery of the highest quality of ABA services, while supporting the amazing team at The Behavior Exchange.

Soraya is from South Africa and moved to Texas in 1996. She graduated from The University of Texas and pursued a career, at that time, in Education. Soraya taught at a Montessori school for a few years and then took on a leadership role.

During her time in the education system, Soraya realized her passion was to assist children with special needs. So she joined The Behavior Exchange as a therapist, transitioned into a supervisory role in 2017, and a year and a half later, was promoted to Clinical Operations Manager.

She quickly learned the ins and outs of ABA operations and scheduling and successfully collaborates across departments to ensure The Behavior Exchange continues to provide quality services to clients and their families. She’s thankful to be part of such an amazing organization and excited to see what the future holds.

You could say Walter’s career started when he spent hours as a young child drawing superheroes and coloring maps. This passion, along with extraordinary swimming skills, landed him a full swimming scholarship at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Graphics.

During the next 13 years, his design and art direction skills, conceptual-thinking abilities, and marketing-savvy know-how were honed at a few prestigious advertising and marketing agencies around the Dallas area. In the mid 2000s, he helped his wife Tammy Cline-Soza (founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange) create a unique and concise brand for her new business. From logos and websites to uniforms, brand voice and visuals, Walter has been the main creative force for all things The Behavior Exchange.

Aside from giving birth to The Behavior Exchange brand, Walter is helping Tammy raise two amazing, beautiful children, River and Sierra. In his spare time (the two minutes he’s got per week), you can find Walter illustrating iconic landmarks of Dallas and Texas or looking around for this next open-water swim. Once he gets back in shape.

After 20 years of building The Behavior Exchange, literally from the ground up,
Tammy couldn’t be more proud of the team, culture, and organization that it has become.

As a family helping families, The Behavior Exchanges looks for opportunities that will make the biggest impact and produce life-changing outcomes – for clients, families, and even for team members. Tammy believes that if a team, a family, a community takes care of each other, the possibilities are endless and the relationships built along the way can make life more enriching and challenges easier to navigate. You could say her goal has been to build a kind of utopia full of support, love, and expertise that brings the best services possible to the community and ensures more families have access to those services.

Tammy and her family have dedicated their lives to the mission of The Behavior Exchange and continue to grow, learn, cultivate, challenge, support, and create better models for success. To that end, she is committed to her own leadership development and actively participates in advanced training, mentoring, and deep self-exploration on how to live out her purpose to love and support her family and help others reach their full potential. She takes her position very seriously and tries to serve as a channel for what the universe wants to come to fruition.

She also loves travel, gardening, being creative, MUSIC!, tennis, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, being in nature, adventures, and more than anything, spending time with her husband Walter and their two beautiful children, River and Sierra.