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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pilates' for Autism

Pilates' Surprising Benefits

by Dawn-Marie Ickes, PT

Helping children organize overly sensitive nervous systems.

Breathing, concentration, focus, and flow are four of the cornerstones of Pilates, a method of exercise and physical movement designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. With systematic practice of specific exercises coupled with focused breathing patterns, Pilates has proven itself invaluable not only as a fitness endeavor, but also as an important adjunct to physical rehabilitation of all kinds.

The benefits of Pilates within the fitness industry have been well documented. As its popularity has soared in the last 10 years, we have seen a shift in its applications beyond the realm of pure fitness. More and more health care practitioners are using its principles and exercises for a variety of treatments. Because of the increasing numbers of health care practitioners who are acquiring comprehensive Pilates training, we also see an abundance of innovative applications using Pilates for therapeutic outcomes.

Pilates as a Therapeutic Modality
For many PTs, Pilates is a logical choice for a large variety of reasons based on individual practices and specialties. Pilates offers extreme versatility for strength and flexibility training, balance and proprioceptive re-education, motor learning, and many other therapeutic effects. This versatility is driving the shift in the rehabilitation industry toward using some aspect of Pilates for the attainment of patient goals.

As a school-based pediatric PT transitioning into private practice, I have seen a wide variety of both children and adults and have observed that many traditional therapy treatments focus primarily on using external techniques. Pilates, however, creates an environment that has a balance between internal (the patient) and external (the clinician) regulation. In my roles as a comprehensively trained Pilates teacher and PT, I have observed amazing outcomes in our clinic’s patients as a result of how Pilates challenges the active, passive, and control systems in each individual’s body.

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