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Treadmill For Students with Autism and Apraxia Protocol (TAAP) : A Novel Approach to Enhance Learning and Development

TAAP is a visual motor exercise program developed by an experienced pediatric physical therapist named Debra Widmer-Reyes. As a student athlete, Debra had first hand experience of the positive effects of visual motor training to enhance performance. As a physical therapist, Debra later developed a method to apply visual motor training that is successful in the sports arena, to help children with developmental disorders to maximize their motor skills and their abilities to learn.

Skills Addressed through TAAP
TAAP focuses on development of gross, fine and visual motor skills. Walking and gross motor skill coordination is a dynamic process that happens during the first 5 years of life. Both systems develop and become more refined together. Deficits in development can limit this process and can greatly affect the child when they enter school and are expected to have mature visual skills in the classroom to work at a desk, look at the teacher, and perform independent work.

Benefits to Children on the Spectrum 
Children on the autism spectrum often have movement and vision as relative strengths. This protocol uses those strengths to increase the skill of these areas as well as tap into deficit areas. The activities can also be integrated with classroom, speech therapy or occupational therapy work. The exercises are done at a fitness training level of each child so that sitting posture, walking, running and endurance increase. As physical skills increase, pre-reading visual skills of fixation, saccades, tracking, attention and memory are promoted. Improved visual gross motor skills allow an automaticity of early learning behaviors that are essential for independence on the classroom.

Various Settings 
The treadmill can combine gross-fine and visual motor skill development in ten minute sessions that can be done in a variety of settings. The program can be used as sensory breaks in school and can also be implemented by parents at home or at a local community center. Older children can benefit from a socially acceptable way to get exercise and sensory input and the fitness training can lead to successful participation in sports activities, such as track and field.

It can be challenging to integrate effective physical therapy strategies into the school environment and into a child’s daily life. TAAP is a great option for schools and families to help students to achieve their potential.