Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Fraser Valley Child Development Centre Presentation

Here is the link to today's presentation.  With any luck the link should work without  needing a Google account.

EXercise IS Therapy presentation.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Yoga and Literacy!

Here is the preamble of a Masters Thesis submitted recently.  Screen time, obesity, learning.

Damia E. Toyras
Incorporating physical activity into the daily lives of our students is essential to their health and wellbeing. School physical education programs have been cut because of curriculum time, funding, or staffing (Metzler, McKenzie, Mars, Barrett-Williams, & Ellis, 2013). Children spend the majority of their school day sitting at desks. Our students need movement to focus their bodies, clear their minds, and prepare to engage in our teachings (Gillen et al., 2007). Schools need to take a leadership role in keeping students physically active. (Turner, Chriqui, & Chaloupka, 2013). One form of physical activity entering schools is yoga. In this paper, I examine research on the possible benefits of incorporating yoga into a school setting as a means to help student engagement. Children ages 8-18 watch an average of four hours of television and spend almost two more hours on other electronics each day (Dowshen, 2011).
The amount of obesity among elementary school children has more than quadrupled, from 4% in the late 1970s to nearly 20% in 2009-2010 (Turner et al., 2013). Our children are facing devastating problems from their lack of physical activity and from the rising rate of obesity. Physical activity is not only beneficial for the health of our bodies; physical activity increases academic performance and stimulates our brain (Harr, Doneyko, & Lee, 2012). As teachers, we cannot control what happens when children leave our schools. We can control some of what happens when our students are with us. Therefore, we should seek opportunities to engage our students in physical activities during the school day, and particularly within the classroom since additional staffing would not be required.

The rest of the paper can be found here:

Thursday, 28 November 2013

ASD and Comorbid Anxiety

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), including Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), are characterized by impairments in social reciprocity and communication, together with repetitive and restricted behaviors and interests. In addition to these core symptoms, an estimated 40 % of children with ASDs fulfill diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder (van Steensel et al. 2011) and as many as 84 % have impairing, subclinical anxiety symptoms (White et al. 2009). Co-occurring anxiety can cause acute distress, amplify the core symptoms of ASD and trigger behavioral difficulties including tantrums, aggression and self-injury (Canitano 2006). Despite the prevalence of anxiety in ASDs, it remains unclear whether anxiety difficulties constitute a separate condition or align more closely with core ASD features. 
From Hallett V, Lecavalier L, Sukhodolsky DG, Cipriano N, Aman MG, McCracken JT, McDougle CJ, Tierney E, King BH, Hollander E, Sikich L, Bregman J,Anagnostou E, Donnelly C, Katsovich L, Dukes K, Vitiello B, Gadow K, Scahill L (2013). Exploring the manifestations of anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorders. Oct;43(10):2341-52. doi: 10.1007/s10803-013-1775-1.

Plato Had it Right

‘‘On order for man to succeed in life, god provided him
with two means, education and physical activity. Not
separately, one for the soul and the other for the body but
for the two together. With these two means, men can attain
perfection’’ (Plato, fourth century BC).

Physical activity is associated with a range of health benefits, and its absence can have harmful effects on health and well being, increasing the risk for coronary heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, obesity, hypertension and all cause mortality (CDC 1996). Physical inactivity may also be associated with the development of mental disorders: some clinical and epidemiological studies have shown associations between physical activity and symptoms of depression and anxiety in crosssectional and prospective-longitudinal studies (Abu-Omar et al. 2004a, b; Bhui and Fletcher 2000; Farmer et al.
1988; Dunn et al. 2001; Goodwin 2003; Haarasilta et al. 2004; Lampinen et al. 2000; Motl et al. 2004). Moreover, exercise is an integral part in the treatment and rehabilitation of many medical conditions. Improving physical well being may also lead to improved psychological well being and is generally accepted that physical activity may have positive effects on mood and anxiety. What is the empirical evidence for this belief: what do we not know about the association of physical activity and depression or anxiety (disorders) and can/should exercise (training) be used in the treatment of depression or anxiety disorders?
From  Ströhle, A. (2009). Physical activity, exercise, depression and anxiety disorders. Journal Of Neural Transmission (Vienna, Austria: 1996)116(6), 777-784. doi:10.1007/s00702-008-0092-x

The more I read the more I find out that there has not been enough 'good' research done to scientifically state that exercise can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and mood disorders.

But we know it does.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Do motor skills impact social success in children with autism?

From an AAHPERD conference preamble:
Autism spectrum disorder is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by deficits in social skills, communication and repetitive or restricted interests (American Psychological Association, 1994). In addition to these disability-specific behaviors, symptoms of movement disturbance are present (Green et el., 2009; Leery & Hill, 1996). Unmistakably, the emphases of intervention programs for these children are focused on improving social skills. But, it is possible that motor skill deficits are affecting success in social skills programs. The purpose of this study is to understand the role of motor skills in the success of a social skills intervention program for school-aged children with autism. Thirty children with a clinical diagnosis of autism or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified were recruited for this study. All participants took part in a school-based social skills intervention. Social skill and motor skill measures were taken at multiple time points. It was hypothesized that children with better motor skills would have more success in a school-based social skills intervention. At baseline motor skills were highly correlated with higher standardized social skills measures ([r.sup.2] = .67). A linear regression analysis revealed a trend that higher motor skills positively affected success in a schoolbased social skills intervention, based on standardized social skills measures. Motor skills affect the social success of children with autism. Teaching age-appropriate motor skills could add to a practitioners 'toolbox' of strategies. Opportunities to increase motor skills could positively impact other domains. Implications for educators will be discussed.
Megan I. MacDonald and Dale A. Ulrich (F), University of Michigan

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Exercise,While, Learning. Google It.

I Googled these three words together:

It is undeniable that exercise benefits the body and brain.  Strong research in the area of neuroplasticity is finding that exercise promotes neurogenesis and synaptic connections, particularly in the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for learning.
Next focusing on the hippocampus, a brain structure known to be important in learning and memory, the researchers determined that organ's volume was on average 12 percent larger relative to brain size in the children with the greatest aerobic capacity. Previous studies in older adults and in animals have shown that exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus. A bigger hippocampus is associated with better performance on spatial reasoning and other cognitive tasks.
"Study: fit children think better." Running & FitNews May-June 2011. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.

Research has also indicated that exercising while learning is has huge benefits for cognitive processes and memory.
Hillman et al. (2009) conducted a study where students exercised for 20 minutes on a treadmill before being assessed in reading, spelling, and math. Students performed better after the exercise, especially in the area of reading comprehension. In a study involving overweight children, exercising 20–40 minutes showed an improvement in the areas of decision-making and math (Baker and Shepard 2007).

It is true that exercise is good for all of us.  Much of the learning that infants are doing is mostly physical.  Research is strong in using exercise as a preventative measure to combat the onset of Alzheimer's  disease.  Individuals post concussion are prescribed bilateral movement and activities to 'repair' the effects of the injury.

Children with neurodevelopmental disabilities are NO different from developing infants, aging octogenarians, or neurotypical peers.

Exercise is good for your brain.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Exercise. It needs to be part of a Behaviour Plan

I have been on a LinkedIn mission of late.  I have been deliberately making connections with Board Certified Behaviour Analysts (BCBAs).

There is a reason:  I want to convince BCBAs that exercise can be a valuable tool in the development of a behaviour plan for their clients!

Exercise has so many benefits for all humans young, old, special needs or not.  An improvement of overall fitness can lead to lower incidences of obesity (which will also reduce the incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease).

Exercise reduces stress, anxiety and the effects of depression .  Kids with autism, ADHD, OCD have a high comorbidity rates with anxiety.  Exercise releases a cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters that appear to be as effective as medication.

Exercise protects your brain.  Exercise causes the brain to release Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor which has been shown to protect neurons, promote neurogenesis and synaptic connections.  Research around the subject of brain plasticity has been investigating what BDNF does within the brain.

Dr. John Ratey calls BDNF the "'Miracle Grow' of the brain".


How can you fit exercise into YOUR behaviour plans?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Kinesiology and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Kinesiology and Autism Spectrum Disorder

I joined the BC Association of Kinesiologists in 2013 to support my practice in providing exercise as therapy for children with special needs.  Although the purpose may have been more practical as a source of insurance for my services when working with clients I have found the response of belonging to an association of professionals very positive, especially when speaking to members of like minded individuals who belong to other professional associations like the  College of Physical Therapists of British Columbia and the College of Occupational Therapists of B.C.

My practice is unique in that I focus on working with children with special needs, in particular, children on the autism spectrum disorder.  It may sound odd, but I am servicing my clients as a personal trainer and focus on the (perhaps not so) unique physical limitations of children on the autism spectrum.

Physically speaking, children with ASD suffer from poor muscle tone and core strength, motor planning deficiencies, balance, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness.  This is in part due to fewer opportunities to play with peers effectively because of social limitations they may experience, but also because of the limited opportunities they may have in participating in the typical group activities (like gym class) because of their unique personalities.

My practice focuses on a few basic principals:  strength, balance, cardiovascular fitness, sport and play rules or etiquette.

For strength I rely on plyometric activities using weighted balls for throwing and catching and hopping/bounding for leg strength.  Hand grip strength is a valid tool to determine overall strength ) and it has been shown that individuals diagnosed ASD have significantly lower handgrip strength than neurotypical children (Kern et al., 2012).  Overall strength greatly affects a person’s ability to perform gross (like 2 foot hopping) and fine (like printing) motor skills .  As wel,l hopping up, down, and over benches and picnic tables provides equipment that one can rarely see in a fitness centre!
Dynamic movement is the goal of the plyometric exercises.

Balance is provided by feedback from both our proprioceptive and vestibular systems.  My goal with my clients is to provide them an opportunity to blossom into ‘Secret Ninja Agents of the Playground’.  I incorporate the use of slackline work, stepping stones, bongo boards, bicycles, scooters, and roadside curbs, and of course “playground follow the leader” to engage and practice these skills.  I often apologise to parents if they suddenly find their child attempting to climb over things that may not be part of the walk they envisioned with their child!

Cardiovascular training is a little tougher….not many people on a fitness program want to run.  What about flying a kite?  This can be very effective for raising the heart rate especially when there is little or no wind!

Hand eye coordination is also a very important concept to teach: it involves the concept of motor planning. Catching and throwing a ball, catching and throwing a ball while standing on a ‘wiggle seat’, hitting a tennis ball on solid ground and on the wiggle seat, juggling, hitting a golf ball, or hitting a baseball.  All of these activities require effective thought processing, planning, and execution.  For some it is a natural progression of active play and movement literacy, for others the lack of these skills can be a source of embarrassment and exclusion.

A dimension of ASD has a social aspect and impacts their ability to participate in group activities.  In turn, the peer acceptance can be a major stumbling block for people with ASD to participate in group or team activities.  Essentially these two concepts act as a negative feedback system for the individual.  It is paramount to try and teach individuals with ASD the social skills around play and sports in order to join their peers on the playground as an equal.

The most exciting thing I am learning about exercise in relation to my practice is the body’s response to increasing the production of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).  BDNF acts as an agent for neuron protection and defense, neurogenesis, synaptic growth, particularly in the hippocampus--the region of the brain associated with learning.  There has recently been a tremendous amount of investigation into the effect of exercise and neuroplasticity (think motor planning abilities), as well how exercise can affect conditions of anxiety and depression (both highly comorbid with ASD).

At the end of the day all of us practitioners can state that exercise is good for everybody, but as we learn more about special populations we can state with even more confidence that exercise is not just good for is essential.

Have the Conversation With Your Feet

Your feet speak to you.  You should listen!

I have been playing with a couple of boys and we do a lot of Parkour type climbing and jumping.  A few times feet slip on the playground equipment and they appears SO surprised!

I have started the mantra "listen to your feet".

Your feet are full of nerve endings called proprioceptors.  They communicate with instant feedback to your body about what type of ground (or object) your feet are in contact with.  They innervate the necessary muscles required to respond to the stimuli they are receiving.

Can you play in your bare feet?  Even better.  Open up the lines of communication between you and your feet.  They will keep you upright and safe.

Go.  Get Grounded!

ps...your hands speak to you as well...just a little differently.  Elbows and armpits do not speak to you very well at all so keep using your hands to hang on to things....

Go Play Outside

Thursday, 31 October 2013

What Do We Provide?

Exercise Is Therapy is dedicated to the promotion of fitness for persons with special needs, in particular those kids on the autism spectrum.

The benefits of exercise are far reaching both immediately and long term. Above and beyond the improvement of strength, muscle tone, cardiovascular, and kinaesthetic improvements that can be obtained from an exercise program there is a growing body of research that explores the endocrine and neurological benefits as well. 

INDIVIDUALS:  an abilities based program that will identify strengths and build on them.

  • Fitness based
    • Dynamic skills --> single and double leg hops, jumping from a height, medicine ball lift, throw and catch, climbing over, under, and through obstacles, stair climbing

    • Balance skills --> slack line, wobble seats, stepping stones, curb walking

    • Strength skills --> medicine ball (for grip strength), movement of medicine balls through playground, medicine ball distance throws, push ups, pull ups
    • Coordination skills --> walk-jog-run, stair climb, juggle, catch and throw, movement (motor) planning
  • Goal oriented
    • learn to catch and throw, juggle, ride a scooter or bike, run long distances, snow board, Parkour, swimming, climb a tree, toss a caber!
SMALL GROUPS:  social skills are practiced through physical play, rules of the game, communication

FAMILIES:  participation in healthy activities is best modeled by the whole family. 
  • When Mum, Dad, siblings, caregivers, and friends participate in activities that are inclusive and abilities based EVERYBODY benefits.  
  • The simplest playground can rival the most modern gym if you know how to use it!
COMMUNITY OUTREACH:  Seminars on the Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How of fitness for ALL individuals

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

BDNF: My Final Stand!

Until science can definitively tell me otherwise I believe I stand on firm ground with respect to the benefits of exercise for kids with autism.  I was focusing solely on the idea that BDNF promotes neurogenesis and that was it.
I sent an email to Dr. John Ratey the author of SPARK asking a question about BDNF and ASD.  Part of his answer was:

"BDNF is a general fertilizer, has effects everywhere--  we can say it reduces depression and anxiety, combats stress— all important in special needs kids of all sorts and of course promotes learning"  (John Ratey, personal communication)

This works for me!

The more I think about the importance of exercise and the overall benefits derived from it the more I need to promote exercise for kids with special needs.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

RE: BDNF and Autism

I found a post from Paul Whiteley that may not answer a single thing!!:

With autism in mind, there is a body of evidence on BDNF which suggests a few things albeit not exactly consistently:

  • I am a little bit unsure whether BDNF is meant to be 'generally' high or low in cases of autism. Accepting the factors which can influence BDNF listed above, there seems to be some conflicting evidence on findings related to blood/plasma. So for example, this paper by Al-Ayadhi** (full-text), an author mentioned in previous posts, reported lower levels of serum BDNF in their cohort of children with autism. This contrasts with this paper by Connolly and colleagues*** who reported elevations in BDNF. Just to complicate matters further Lisa Croen and colleagues**** (full-text) reported no significant differences in blood concentrations of BDNF in either mums mid-pregnancy nor their young offspring subsequently diagnosed with autism compared with asymptomatic and learning disability control participants. I might be comparing apples and oranges at different times of year, but suffice to say that results are not yet clean-cut.
  • When it comes to genes and BDNF in cases of autism, the waters aren't really any less muddy. This paper by Correia and colleagues***** reported elevations in plasma BDNF in their autism cohort but the source of the increase did not seem to stem from issues with the BDNF gene. Without being an expert on all things genetic, I think this finding might also tie into the results published by Garcia and colleagues****** who suggested that BDNF elevations might not be "transcriptionally driven" (see here for a summary of mRNA). There are other studies looking at other features of BDNF seemingly reporting contrasting findings such as decreased BDNF and anti-apoptotic function (here) and SNPs in the BDNF gene in autism (here andhere). The message continues: it's complicated.

Thank you, Paul!

Monday, 7 October 2013


I have bee researching many papers on the effect of exercise on neurochemistry and how it may relate to autism spectrum disorder. There have been a number of recent studies that identified an increase in brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), particularly in the hippocampus, the centre of learning and memory in the brain.  BDNF is a compound that promotes neuronal growth and protection and synaptic connections which all relate to the idea that the brain has the ability to grow and change (brain plasticity).

This has huge ramifications for elderly people with Alzheimer's (as some investigators suggest).  

What about autism?

Here is where I hit a wall and need to find more research in the area. In fact I found a couple of articles that suggested some people with ASD had up three times as much BDNF in their blood serum. I could not find out if this was because it was not being utilized or if it had a negative effect on the brain.

There are also connections between exercise, BDNF, and serotonin, and how exercise can alleviate symptoms of depression

I need more on the direct positive relationships between EXERCISE and AUTISM!

Modie, Jonathan. (2003). "'Good' Chemical, Neurons in Brain Elevated Among Exercise Addicts." OHSU, online.

"Exercise can help brain healing process." (2004). Medical Research News, online.

Russo-Neustadt, A.A., R.C. Beard, Y.M. Huang, and C.W. Cotman. (2000). "Physical Activity and Antidepressant Treatment Potentiate the Expression of Specific Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Transcripts in the Rat Hippocampus." Neuroscience, 101, 305-312

Monday, 23 September 2013

Meet Your Kids Where They Are At

School has now been under way for a few weeks.
I was meeting with a client last Wednesday who has started Grade 3 with a new teacher, limited access to a new TA, a new schedule, and a whole lot of time away from his mum!  As he came around the corner with his mum, sister, and Fonzie the dog and saw me he BURST into tears!!

Not a great sign!

"Mummy I want to cancel!"  There was more but I won't dwell!  I got Mum to leave with his sister and Fonzie and got my friend to sit with me.  This was a good opportunity to work on some breathing, some hand squeezing (instead of rubbing his eyes), and some talk about how he misses his Mummy and changes at school are hard and that he isn't sleeping well.

After 15 minutes I got my friend to agree to a 'walk and talk' instead of our normal high activity session.

We did over a 4k walk.

It wasn't what I had planned for, but I still count it as a successful session.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

A School District Strategy?

I believe that school districts need to create a team of 'exercise practitioners' that will move throughout the schools in the district, pulling kids out of Resource rooms for a block of activity that works on cardiovascular, strength, balance, and motor skills.

Currently, most kids with special needs have an SEA (Special Education Assistant) attached to them for the school day (or they share one with another student depending on their needs).  Often, during physical education classes, these students participate on the periphery of a regular gym class (inclusion?) with their SEA. We can do better.

This post in NO WAY is meant to focus on the lack of exercise or participation during a regular gym class being provided/facilitated by the SEA.  If I am not mistaken SEA's are not trained in providing quality fitness instruction to their students.

A trained group of individuals could.

This block of exercise activity could be put in place as relief for the SEA and provide meaningful sessions of exercise and fitness for the students.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Never Leave the Playground - Stephen Jepson

I stumbled upon this video of Stephen Jepson of
Watch it.  Go play.

It is testimony that all movement is beneficial.  Juggle, roll, balance.  Be silly. Play.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Exercise can work well with Behaviour Plans

As an aversion to completing serious things that needed to be accomplished at home I have spent the morning sending unsolicited emails to a variety of community and provincial autism groups, and provincial organisations across Canada.
I am hopeful that I will generate some contact but I don't hold my breath!!

My goal?  To try and establish a conversation about the state of physical fitness of children and youth with an ASD (and other special needs).

What's your story?  What do you know about fitness levels amongst the special need community.  A stat I came across the other day is that 40 - 50% of kids diagnosed with ASD are either approaching or have reached the line of obesity.

There needs to be a shift in the treatment and behaviour planning for kids with ASD to MANDATE an exercise program INTO behaviour plans.  If a child can be taught to do something for a jelly bean as positive reinforcement...let's pair it with another behaviour (like a push up, a burpee, or a plank!).  ENGAGE your clients physically even while doing Discreet Trial Training at the table!

The benefits can be FAR reaching!


Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Playground Exercise Session (While your Kids Play!)

I love the title of this blog:  The Art of Manliness

I came across a video on the site after posting about getting in an exercise session in while at your kid's favourite playground and a quick Twitter conversation with @_valeriei .

Go play.

Friday, 2 August 2013

I Have NO Time to Exercise

"I have no time to exercise".

As a parent I get that.  What I think you are really saying is I don't have any time to exercise alone.

If your kids love the playground then play with them.  Go down the slide.  More importantly you should try a chin up wherever you can.  Can't do one?  Jump.  Cheat.  I promise you, that after a few months of jumping up and grabbing that bar above your head, you will be doing a non-cheating chin up.
Jump off things.  Pretend you are riding a motorbike when you land.  Jump from higher things.  Keep challenging yourself to 'exercise' while you play with your kids.

Changes won't happen in a month, or even half a year...but if you keep at it there will be noticeable differences in your strength and fitness.

A letter I sent to a group of PTs, OTs, SLPs, and BCs


My name is Malcolm Chrystal.  I am a practicing kinesiologist, teacher, and caregiver of children with special needs. I am developing a practice providing fitness/exercise sessions for children with special needs, in particular autism. 

I have taken your email from the RASP list on Autism Community Training's website and I am sending an email to the BCs, SLPs, PTs and OTs on the list across BC and hope that I find a receptive audience for my message and create a discussion on the importance of exercise for ALL kids.

My practice:  I work with individuals and small groups (2-4) and engage them in EXERCISE (not recreation) with the goal of increasing their CARDIOVASCULAR, MUSCULAR, AND PROPRIOCEPTIVE FITNESS.  Improvement of these fitness components helps individuals attain marked improvements in gross and fine motor skills, AND quality of life.  Having the ability to play with peers on the playground, or playing catch, or perhaps learning to ride a bike can have extraordinary effects on quality of life.

I regard my work as complementary to a client's behaviour plan and NOT as an alternative treatment.

A healthy body, an exercised body, is easier to work with in many situations: table work, eating, falling asleep. Improvements in balance, coordination and hand (and overall) strength can support much of the work being done by OTs,PTs, PE teachers, and parents wishing to teach their children.  

It is my hope to see exercise sessions planned and built into current behaviour plans.

I am both looking for new clients (in the lower mainland) and an opportunity to share my message and ideas with Behaviour Consultants, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and their BI teams across the province. 

If you are interested in learning more about what I am doing I would be more than happy to speak with you about anything related to exercise and fitness for your clients.

Please share with those who you may think will benefit!

Thank you for your time.

Kind Regards,


Friday, 26 July 2013

Exercise...Not Recreation

Don't get me wrong, recreation is an important aspect of quality of life, but what if you don't have the physical abilities to do many of the activities that require a certain strength and skill set that allow you to participate in recreational activities?

Fitness is a tool that will enhance the ability to participate in recreational activities.

Lately I have been thinking (even dreaming of) parkour as an important tool to promote and enhance the physical abilities of children.  In fact I have a client who lists parkour as one of his likes.  I design his sessions around the idea of parkour type exercises.  Not only are the exercises increasing his strength and power (relative to his body) but balance and confidence in moving his body will only continue to grow.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Quiet Running

Run like a Ninja.

It has occurred to me of late that non-runners are those of heavy feet.  A few of my clients make a huge flappy noise when they run and I remind them to "run like a Ninja".

That shuffling noise you hear when some people run is actually them putting the brakes on and it takes a lot of energy to run with your brakes on!

Your stride should be quiet.  You need to run OVER your foot strike and not INTO it.
If you are a beginner runner, lose the heel strike, run more on the mid-foot, and have active toes as you stride forward. Not only does it change the way you sound, but it changes the way you look when you look like a runner!

One of my clients who was a terribly noisy runner did a 1 km run last week and he looked like a completely different person running....I didn't hear him run at all.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Pediatric Meet and Greet!

Thank you to Laura of Kids Physio Group and Leslie of Leap Therapy for Kids for hosting a meet and greet of PTs, OTs, one lone Kinesiologist and a PE teacher!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Behaviour Plans and Exercise

I am curious.  How many BCBAs incorporate exercise into the behaviour plan for their clients?

I am hoping to open a dialogue with Behaviour Consultants about how exercise can be used as a COMPLEMENTARY  tool to behaviour interventions.

I am of the belief that programmed exercise sessions can be a valuable tool to specific behaviour interventions (sleep issues/feeding issues/table work) and as a tool to develop self-regulation skills, and specific athletic skills that may improve quality of life for an individual with autism.


Tuesday, 21 May 2013



Thursday, 16 May 2013

North Delta Session FULL

I am pleased to announce that the North Delta session is now full.
I look forward to meeting all participants and parents on Friday!

Movement is NOT a Reward

Here is a post about the need for a shift in perspective on a student's need to MOVE from Chris Wejr's blog:  Movement is NOT a Reward
Chris is the principal of Kent Elementary School in Agassiz, BC.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Mini-Camps in July

We are organising Week Day Camps for the month of July for groups of 4 to 6.

July 8 - 12 
July 15 - 19 -BOOKED in North Delta
July 22 - 26
July 28 - August 2

Day activities involve fitness and skill activities, group cooperation games, snack and lunch downtime, and *swimming pool activities.

*North Delta groups only

Hours: 9:00am - 3:00pm
Location: will be tailored to group enrolled
Group size:  4 to 6

Please contact EXercise IS Therapy for more information and pricing.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Defining our Services

It is important to define the services that we offer.

I am a Kinesiologist who specialises in providing exercise and conditioning activities.   As a member of the BC Association of Kinesiologists I am governed by professional standards that are in place for the protection of both clients and practitioners.  As a member of the BCAK and the Canadian Association of Kinesiologists we are supported by a National Professional Liability Insurance Program.

I focus my practice to serve clients with special needs, in particular children diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum Disorder  . Up to 30% of individuals with autism suffer from a moderate to severe loss of muscle tone, which can limit their gross and fine motor skills.

My goal is to see children be able to participate with confidence in Gym class, to be able to run up and down the soccer field at recess with their peers, to learn the social rules of playing with others and the game rules of the sport of their choice.  I try and train clients to be deliberate and purposefull in their movement and to be able to move their body skillfully and safely. I would like to see individuals learn that running, swimming or biking can become the things they CAN DO, rather than things they WON'T DO.

Strength and conditioning is the root of all physical activity.  Physical activity is part of an important developmental progression.

Having the ability to play sports and games with peers is an important part of social development.

As a student studying Applied Behaviour Analysis I am learning more about children with autism and how to teach new behaviours that may improve their quality of life.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Friday June 7: A Second Session Added and Location

We are excited to be able to add a second complimentary fitness session on Friday June 7!

Space is limited to five.

The location of both sessions will be John Hendry Park at:

Trout Lake
2120 East 19th Avenue
Vancouver, BC

The first session will begin at 4:15 pm and end at 5:45 pm.

The second session will begin at 6:00 pm and end at 7:30 pm.

Parents and/or BIs are encouraged to watch or participate!!

Please contact for more information and to register you child.


Its What We Do in Video

Here is a page that will begin to fill up with videos:

Please enjoy responsibly.

Info Sharing with Parents

Check out the Page link to see how we share information:

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

How I Use Runkeeper During a Session

If you have a GPS enabled phone you can use an application called Runkeeper to track our rambles.  It also allows us to take photos and they become attached to the map!

Here is an example of one of our sessions.  In order to view the link you may have to sign in to

Here is a screen shot of what an activity looks like:

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Vancouver: June 7th Session is Full

The Vancouver complimentary session is full.  I will create a wait list for those that wish to take part.

The Delta session still has some spaces available!

Thank you all for your interest!


Friday, 26 April 2013

What Do We Do?

The exercises we might do are all ABILITIES BASED and governed by the level of confidence of the person attending a session:

  • if a person has difficulty running or walking 1km without stopping, that would be something we would work on.
  • core strength is often an issue with some people so we incorporate the use of soft weighted balls into almost everything we do: we had 2 boys (age 6) at a playground hauling a 4kg balls up to the top of a slide and down (10 times!)
  •  have set up ropes for walking along (balance and core).  With a group we do tug-of-war!
  •  stairs are always fun (2x2, throwing a weighted ball up!)
  • playground equipment is some of the best fitness equipment on the planet (arm hangs, climbing skills)
  •  curbs and low walls as balance beams
  • any area where there are large rocks and boulders (stepping stones) is a fantastic piece of equipment for balance.  If it is in our path and it looks like we can climb or hop over it...we will!

If level of confidence in moving and trying new things is fairly low we modify the skill level to ensure success.  We had a boy last year who didn't have the confidence to walk on a low curb.  He does now with ease!

If a person needs work on learning the ideas of game rules, fair play, taking turns and sharing we  incorporate that into group sessions.

Being outside is the single most important part of our sessions; rain or shine. 
Exercise is great, but exercise outside is even better.

Please consider signing up for a complementary session!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Innovative Thinking:: Our proximity to healthcare implosion.

Innovative Thinking:: Our proximity to healthcare implosion.

Complimentary Small Group Exercise Sessions


  • Friday May 24  4:30 - 6:00pm 
  • NORTH DELTA, BC (Sunstone Park)
  • Friday June 7,   4:30 - 6:00pm  

    • KIDS
    • ME


About Malcolm:

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A LinkedIn Letter

I am just sharing to my Twitter contacts a note I sent to my LinkedIn followers:

On Thu April 18 2013, Malcolm Chrystal wrote:

First off, to many of you who I have never met in person, hello and thank you for becoming one of my connections.

I am contacting my connections to share what I am doing in my practice Exercise is Therapy.
Simply put I provide exercise and fitness sessions for people with special needs.

My main focus is children with autism.

My request of you, if you could be so kind,is to share what I do with your clients, colleagues, friends, and family. Hopefully my service is something that might be of interest.
I am located in the Greater Vancouver area.

I would be more than happy to be in direct contact with you if you need more information about my practice.

Thank you for your time!

Kind Regards,


Friday, 12 April 2013

Soccer Pups, Dogs, and Wolves

Last week our friends joined up with The Blazin' Soccer Dogs.  This is a non-profit soccer team that DENIES NOBODY!

They offer programs for 4-8 (Pups), 9 - 24 (Dogs) and the kids with better skills are the Wolves.

If your athlete needs a person to be with them on the field they have a group of young volunteers ready to go.  The group leader Nish is fantastic and full of energy, runs them through running and skill drills, and they end with some game play.

Go and check them out.  Tell your friends who have kids that might not do well on a more competitive team.

The cost?  FREE.  All that is required is a $50 deposit for a uniform which is returned to you at the end of the season.
Donations for the coffee fund are always appreciated (yes...there is coffee for parents!)


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Autism and Obesity

An article by way of Autism Beacon :

"According to a new study, published 13 March in Childhood Obesity, more than 30 percent of children with autism are overweight or obese, a rate that is significantly higher than in the general population."

Read More:  In Autism, Obesity Starts Early

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Go Outdoors

My goal when working with clients is to be outside at all opportunities.  Exercise for kids has to be a green revolution.

Biophilia must  be psychologically genetic condition.  Our brains and bodies function better in the outdoors, especially when exercising outside!

"Love of living systems
The term "biophilia" literally means "love of life or living systems." It was first used by Erich Fromm to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital.[3] Wilson uses the term in the same sense when he suggests that biophilia describes "the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.” He proposed the possibility that the deep affiliations humans have with nature are rooted in our biology."


Monday, 11 March 2013

Exercise and Stress

Picked up on Twitter today!

"Physically active children generally report happier moods and fewer symptoms of depression than children who are less active. Now researchers may have found a reason: by one measure, exercise seems to help children cope with stress."


Is exercise the new ritalin? How exercise affects brain power in kids

A fantastic article shared by one of my clients:
Is exercise the new ritalin? How exercise affects brain power in kids

The message continues to say that what is good for neorotypical kids is ESPECIALLY important for people along the ASD spectrum, FASD, ADHD.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Short Bouts of Exercise


 "A new study has found that short bouts of exercise help improve higher brain functions, such as memory, concentration, planning, and decision-making.

The result suggests that exercise might be a useful treatment for conditions characterised by impaired higher brain functions, such as attention hyperactivity deficit disorder (ADHD) and autism, and may help delay the ravages of dementia, according to researchers."

Read the short article here:

There is no information on the article about who did the research.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Not Enough Evidence?

From the BMC Research Notes

"Without doubt, physical activity interventions for children with autism consistently show positive outcomes but the evidence is limited, which makes it hard to draw conclusions. In a recent review of physical activity interventions, a total of 18 studies were found, collectively only 64 participants received a physical activity intervention (across all 18 studies) [9]. The combination of limited descriptive and intervention-based studies in physical activity, along with an astounding rate of obesity in children with autism clearly displays a gap in the literature and a need to address such critical deficits."

MacDonald, M., Esposito, P.,Ulrich, D. (2011). BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:422. Taken from

There is plenty of research that shows that exercise is beneficial for people in general.  Perhaps that is the reason why not much specific research related to autism is documented.  It would seem logical, however, that an exercise program for children with autism that relates directly to Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and a person's Behaviour Plan may warrant some research.

Vigorous activity utilises the energy stores of the body.  This can be advantageous to setting establishing operations (EOs) for introducing non-preferred foods (an exercised body is a hungry body).