Thursday, 22 May 2014

Autism, Asperger's - Climbing as Therapy

Jay training at the Beacon Climbing Centre in North Wales, UK
If you or a friend or family member have autism and are interested in trying climbing with Reach Climbing Coach ( UK ), then contact to arrange a 1 to 1 indoor climbing session with Mark McGowan & Jay Owen.

Autism, Asperger's Climbing as Therapy
  1. Develop positive recreation skills
  2. Increase muscle tone and motor skills
  3. Develop trust and relationship building skills
  4. Increase self-esteem and empowerment
  5. Promote independence, health and wellness
  6. Enjoy themselves in a safe and controlled Environment

Why Indoor Rock Climbing is good for children with Additional Needs?
Children on the Autistic spectrum can share many traits such as uneven gross and fine motor skills, over-activity or under-activity. They can have difficulty with communication, social skills and this can be accompanied by repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. Children with autism can also have sensory needs. However if they move while learning, they will actually retain more information. Rock climbing is very tactile, both in holds and in the texture of the walls. The holds are brightly coloured with different shapes so are visually stimulating.

Climbing can help support language as it encourages cross pattern movement. It can help to develop the vestibular system (balance) and proprioception (spatial body awareness). It improves overall muscle tone, fine and gross motor skills and its wonderful the benefits that climbing can have on Interhemispheric integration (communication between the two sides of the brain). Climbing encourages problem-solving; independent thinking and can help improve behaviour through Interhemispheric Integration. Climbers are motivated to communicate by the joy of climbing, bonding with the belayer (the person holding the other end of the rope!). Overall climbing builds confidence in a safe and nurturing environment. Therefore Rock climbing is one-stop therapeutic shop and, is therapy disguised as play!
Every movement is a sensory – motor event.
The corpus callosum the thick bridge of neural tissue in the middle of the brain connects the two hemispheres, conveying information from one side to the other. The right brain is the more creative or emotional hemisphere and the left brain is the analytical and judgmental hemisphere.
It has been known for years that children who miss the vitally important crawling stage may exhibit learning difficulties later on. Crawling, a cross – lateral movement, activates  development of the corpus callosum. Research shows that muscular activities, particularly coordinated, balanced movement, appears to stimulate the production of neurotrophins, such as dopamine, natural substances that stimulate the growth of existing nerve cells and increase the number of new nerve cells, and neural connections in the brain. We have discovered that boys need more movement time than girls for brain growth and development.
The tactile system plays a major part in determining physical mental and emotional human behaviour. Every one of us, needs steady tactile stimulation to keep us organised, functioning and healthy. We get tactile information through sensory receiving cells, called receptors, in our skin from head to toe. We are always actively touching or passively being touched by something – other people, furniture, clothes, the ground under our feet, and the air on our skin. The ability to process tactile sensations effectively is very important, not only for visual discrimination, motor planning and body awareness, but also for academic learning, emotional security and social skills.
Balance and Movement, The vestibular Sense. The vestibular system is the unifying system, giving us a sense of where we stand in the world. Movement and gravity stimulate special receptors in the little “Vestibule” of the inner ear. The vestibular system takes in messages about balance and movement from the neck, eyes, and body; sends the message to the central nervous system for processing; and then helps generate muscle tone that allows us to move smoothly and efficiently. The vestibular system tells us where are heads and bodies are in relation to the surface of the earth. It tells us whether we are upright, upside-down, or at a tilt; whether we are moving or standing still; and whether objects are moving or motionless in relation to our bodies. It also informs where we are going and how fast, and if we are in danger or in a relaxing place.
Proprioception refers to sensory messages about the position, force, direction, and movement of our bodies. It helps integrate tactile and vestibular sensations. Receptors for this sense are in the muscles and joints. Proprioception the “position sense” sends messages about whether the muscles stretch or contract, and how the joints bend and straighten. Even when we are motionless, gravity stimulates the receptors to create Proprioceptive messages without our conscious awareness. The functions of proprioception are to increase body awareness and to contribute to motor control and motor planning. Proprioception helps us with body expression, the ability to move our body parts efficiently. It lets us walk smoothly, run quickly, climb, carry, sit, stand, stretch and lie down. It gives us emotional security, for when we can trust our bodies we feel safe and secure.
Climbing helps to develop and enhance all of the above sensory and motor movement themes.”

Mark coaching in Siurana, Spain
for Mountaineering Council Of Scotland
If you or a friend or family member have autism and are interested in trying climbing with Reach Climbing Coach ( UK ), then contact to arrange a 1 to 1 indoor climbing session with Mark McGowan & Jay Owen.

Referrals from clients:

"...This training season I decided to get all the help I can to speed up my improvement. I needed guidance to work towards my goals in long term. I also needed more vision and opinions about my exercises and weak links. I am glad I can share my training with Mark..." (Ville Mustonen, Finland)

" I met Mark in Glen Nevis on his return to climbing to check out some lines he had in mind for me, I wasn't really training at this point but after a day or two talking and training with him I had a much more structured idea of what to do to improve and I did" (Kev Shields)