ROCKVILLE, Md. - As autism awareness has grown across the country, so have therapies and techniques to help people dealing with the disorder.
Autism has taken much of Filippo Raponi's ability to speak, but during his time at Fitness for Health, he's developed other skills that have helped his ability to communicate and eventually make his own way in the world.
"Any time that we can give them success, and that's what we believe in, success builds success. They will be more willing to take risks like any other child,” said Pediatric Fitness Therapist Christian Garcia.
This obstacle course of activity mixes exercise with LED lights and sounds to keep Filippo and other special needs kids focused on fun while also improving things like their muscle tone, cognitive skills and concentration.
"The child thinks, 'Wow! I am playing this game.' Now, you took it from what’s called internal attention of focus, when they're really thinking about what they're doing, to external, where they think they're playing a game,” said Fitness for Health, Owner, Marc Sickel.
It took Sickel years of searching and collecting unique work out machines from across the country, but he said it's been well worth the effort.
"Each activity is meant to help kids like Filipo in a different way, whether by improving their hand-eye coordination or just giving them a much needed confidence boost," he said.
The therapists create a line-up of activities for the kids to follow, teaching them the value of organization and scheduling.
"We've seen kids that most people have written them off as low-functioning, but they’ve found ways to communicate, and you find out how really bright these kids are,” said Garcia.
Bright enough to work through their struggles and build meaningful lives to enjoy with the ones they love...
"What we want to do is to be able to have their son or daughter learn different types of motor tasks, so then the families can do activities together, and that is what it is all about,” said Sickel.
When programmed to operate at a much higher and more intense level, many of those machines that help Filippo and other kids are also being used to train professional athletes with their speed and reaction times.