Reintroducing the Jump Rope: The Next 6 Weeks

TAGS: negative attitdue, personal connection, Sky Zone, autism spectrum disorder, obstacle course, children fitness, jump rope, jumping, movement, aspergers, autism, flexibility

Remember that feeling when you couldn’t comprehend a concept as fast as your peers. Were you laughed at, left out, made to feel like less of a person, ashamed?

How do we drop those negative associations surrounding past experiences and create new associations, positive ones, associations that allow us to feel competent and empowered to fail, try again, fail again and then succeed?

Reintroducing the Jump Rope: The First 6 Weeks

This article and the previous installment shine light on the child that didn’t receive appropriate time or instruction to learn a concept in gym class. I consider the child with autism who has a negative attitude towards jumping, the jump rope, and jumping rope.

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This 6-week continuation starts where the previous progression left off, intended to illustrate how to maximize ability and overcome past failure through appropriate exercise, a flexible time-frame, and personal connection.

As a reminder, these exercises/steps are intended to play as a program insert within a 30- to 60-minute weekly training session. Continue asking and answering self-reflection questions from the previous article each week.

Weeks 1- 6 


Week 7: Hot Lava Rock Jump

How-To: This game requires us to jump with both feet in a variety of stances. Each jump requires us to pay close attention to whether or not we need to widen or narrow our jump stance, depending on the flow of lava (there’s either a narrow passage of lava or a wider flow of lava we must not jump into). Using multi-colored chalk (preferably white and red) draw white rocks and red lava. Be sure to draw each rock big enough that the entire foot of the child will land within the rock. Each pair of rocks should be laterally lined up to one another. Begin with five sets of two rocks. Each pair of rocks will alter by the space in between the two. Within the space, draw lava with the red piece of chalk. The point is to move from one end to another by jumping onto the rocks with both feet without landing in the hot lava. Model how to get from one end to another.

Benefit: Up till now, we are comfortable with the Water Jump In game. Be sure to associate that game with this game as we’re calling upon at least one familiar skill set (jumping forward with both legs). The variance is our stance when we jump and land and how this small tweak changes with every jump forward. We’re realizing we can jump with different stances, land in different stances, and we may feel stronger or weaker in one stance compared to another. We’re also jumping with purpose because heck, “if I don’t jump with accuracy I’m going to land in lava, and who has time for that?” We’re also building more positive associations with jumping and realizing we can jump with feet close together, a little wider, and a little wider, we can jump up onto a small blue pad and land in a water portal, and we can also mix up our jumping style based on the flow of lava. We may be reminded of jumping jacks and hopscotch, too. The possibilities are endless.

Verbal/Physical Cue: The colored chalk (red lava and white rocks) will serve as visual indicators of where each foot needs to be at all times. If you land in red, you land in hot lava. If you land on the white rocks your safe from burning your feet! Verbalize these visual cues as needed. To modify the game, step onto each rock instead of jumping—this may help with getting used to the varying distances between each set of rocks. If the rocks appear to have too much space in between them, draw the rocks larger by filling in the gap.

Set x Rep: See who can get to the end without stepping into lava. Take turns as long as interest remains. If the child was reminded of hopscotch or jumping jacks, add similar components to Hot Lava Rock Jump, if applicable. Overall, stay flexible and let the child dictate how to modify the game and for how long to play.

Week 8: [Insert name] in the Middle

How-To: For this exercise, you’ll need assistance from another friend to hold one end of the jump rope (a longer jump rope is advised) or a thin battling rope. The child will play a part in both roles of this game: the jumper and the rope swinger. Begin by modeling to the child how to hold the rope at one end and rotate hand in a large circle. Model how this movement is coordinated with the friend’s movement and they move in sync. Practice this part as many times needed until the movement is in sync with another and swings are in full circle. Once swings are consistent and in sync, have the child remain in position and model how to jump the rope by standing in the middle of the two twirlers. Start by stepping over the rope and progress to a full double-leg jump. Switch roles. Have the child jump the rope. As he resumes the jumping position use his name in the phrase “[Insert name] in the Middle.”

Benefit: This activity separates the swinging and jumping components of jumping rope so the child can focus on each skill. It’s our hope the child begins to piece all the working parts together. This is a great activity for the child to realize that the jumping rope requires a pace that is individual to each jumper so that he or she has plenty of time to jump and clear and rope before the next rotation. This concept of pace will transcend once they are ready to approach the jump rope individually. In the swinging position we are reinforcing the following skills: taking turns, gripping the jump rope’s end, the need to make a full rotation through the use of our arm, attention to our partners pace, and awareness of the needs of the jumper.

WATCH: Pain Release with Dave 

Verbal/Physical Cue: It may be helpful to create a continuous beat for both swingers to rotate to. The beat may signify when the rope should hit the ground in each rotation. Once they begin to accommodate a jumper, they can slow down or speed up the beat. In the modeling process, emphasize the need to pay attention to your partner and how their role is as important as yours. As the jumper, we’ll see how the child attempts to get over the rope. Remember to showcase a few different ways to get over the rope. See where they are and then make adjustments as needed. Be sure to use the phrase “[Insert name] in the Middle” as this will confirm the jumping position and their role while in the middle.

Set x Rep: Rotate the three players amongst the three roles: swinger, jumper, and swinger. Move clock-wise. Give the jumper two attempts to clear the rope before they get tired or can’t clear the rope with successive jumps. Rotate roles as long as interest remains.


Week 9: Monkey Bar Two-foot Land

How-To: This may be a familiar exercise if you followed the monkey bar program. In that instance, the use of this activity was to practice landing with both feet onto the ground. Therefore we practiced the “falling” aspect of the exercise when and if our grip gave out. In this case, I’m using this activity as a connection activity to use both legs and to represent why—and to extend to jumping and jumping rope with both feet. We can talk about how landing with both feet is more stable and how we feel stronger—compared to landing on one leg. This conversation can extend to jumping and how we used both of our legs to jump into the water portal. We can further this conversation to jumping rope—using both legs to land translates to a stronger, comfortable, and coordinated jump using both legs. In this moment we are differentiating between using one leg or both legs and we realize we have options. The “fall” should be around a three-inch drop (lessen the distance if necessary and progress to three inches). Assisted or without assistance have the child swing the monkey bars and land onto the ground on command (before grip gives out or when grip gives out).

Benefit: We’re making the connection to use both legs to land, as softly as we can, similar to how we landed when jumping into the water portal. While hanging from the monkey bars, this concept of using both feet is imperative because if we don’t use both of our legs, there’s more of a dramatic after-effect—we hurt one of our legs or we fall to the ground. Finally we have a matter-of-fact reason to use both legs. This activity is of special use especially when the child is neglecting to use a leg.

Verbal/Physical Cue: Remind the child of the water portal and how we jumped and landed with both feet. If necessary, begin with the Water Portal Jump and then move into this activity, reinforcing the use of both legs and landing softly. Instead of using a verbal cue to release grip and land, use a visual indicator of when to release grip and land.

Set x Rep: Repeat the swinging and landing process as long as interest remains and soft lands continue. Take turns to provide constant reinforcement as will allow extra rest time between sets to recover, too.

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Week 10: Bug Removal Step Over

How-To: This is a familiar exercise from week 6. At that time, it relied on a bug and adhesive. Today we’re removing the bug from the jump rope! Try a few Bug Rides and Step Overs before the removal. Take note of any newfound comfort the child has when handling the jump rope. After a few rides, this is a great opportunity to involve a storytelling component (fictitious, obviously) as to why the bug is being removed. My story was an elaborate tale of a bug that needed to fly away to the Netherlands who couldn’t so much fulfill that request if he was glued to a jump rope. He had to travel because his grandmother was chief director for a jump rope school for ogres. She knew how helpful he was to us in Ohio so she wanted him to be the lead teacher at her new school. Note: It’s rather important that the bug is not severed in any way in the removal process. Once the bug is removed from the rope, model how to secure each handle in hands with arms by your side. Make note of how feet are shoulder width apart. Model how to swing rope from the back of our heels to the top of our foot. Model a change in step-over pace (from slow and methodical to a slightly faster pace). Jump the rope with both feet.

Benefit: Removing the bug, we’re lessening the reliance on a visual reinforcement to move the jump rope. The bug gives us a place to start, a familiar place, and a motor cue to take the bug for a ride from the back of our heels to the top of our feet. In our case, the story and inclusion of ogres was funny and gave our transition context. It solidified how the bug was useful and how it carried out its job. Because this is a familiar exercise previously done, take note of comfort level, speed, and risk-taking. This is a great opportunity to see where the child is and how far they’ve come along through the weeks prior.

Verbal/Physical Cue: We now have a plethora of cues used in previous weeks. Reuse what was successful in week six to step over the rope. If jumping the rope becomes a viable option, reuse cues from the Water Portal Jump, the Hot Lava Jump, the Monkey Bar Lands, etc.

Set x Rep: Step over rope as long as interest remains. How smooth is the sequence? Smoother than in week six? On average, how many times can he step over the rope and swing the rope from front to back without tripping or fumbling? Take turns.

Try This: Complete one smooth sequence then let partner repeat. Complete two smooth sequences then let partner repeat. Repeat and increase sequence reps in each set before switching roles.

Week 11: Offsite Visit to Sky Zone

How-To: Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline park. They have locations world-wide and seem to be growing rapidly. Here’s a location finder to see if one is near you: US Locations. The park is split up into four destinations: open jump, ultimate dodgeball, foam zone, and skyslam. In 30 minutes (I recommend this time frame before progressing to 60 minutes) you have free reign of what activity to choose from. All four require jumping in various ways. Create a schedule that visits each destination. In the open jump area, be sure to cover some previously learned concepts: jump forward but be sure to stay in your designated square, soft lands with knees bent, high knees like when we were stepping over hurdles, wide jumps like when avoiding the lava, narrow jumps, single leg jumps, etc.

Benefit: This off-site activity has many benefits. I personally like how this activity gets you out of the gym and on the road to experience something new. If traveling offsite is new, I recommend reading Off-Site Training: Considerations for Training Children with Special Needs before heading out. Another benefit is that you’re also surrounding the child with other jumpers who, for the most part are modeling jumping as fun, social, creative, and individualistic. This too is time to experiment with a variety of jumping styles that we’d regularly not explore when jumping on pavement or a gym floor since falling (and getting hurt) and high impact are of little concern. Here are a few ideas: land seated, land kneeling, jump with a lot of force to gain height, bounce off the walls, and jump and spin in the air.

Verbal/Physical Cue: Be sure to use previous cues, especially in the chunk of time when in open jump and revisiting previous concepts. What cues would be appropriate to reinforce that were lacking when a jump rope was in hand? Bring awareness to the differences between jumping on the trampoline compared to the pavement.

Set x Rep: Spend at least 15 minutes in open gym and then split the remaining 15 minutes in dodgeball, foam zone, and skyslam. Take water breaks as needed.

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Week 12: Choice: Jump Rope or Obstacle Course

How-To: This week is very simplistic to set up and execute. The child is given a choice between activities: jump rope or obstacle course. The child will choose which activity he or she would like to perform for this given day. Set up the course before providing the choice. Include familiar exercises with progressions and introduce a few new. A set-up example could be the following:

  • Cone (marks starting point)
  • Jump rope (horizontal straight line—use any variety)
  • (8) hurdles
  • Battling Rope (center of rope would go through heavy kettlebell)
  • Ladder (alternate jumping in and out of each square while moving forward)
  • Blue pad
  • Cone (marks end point)

Model how to move through the obstacle course. Move through the familiar exercises with slight alteration, making the familiar have a new twist. You may see variation in how the child approaches (this is good). Move through the new exercises in the most basic manner by choosing one way to move through it and then make adjustments as needed: change height of hurdles, change number of hurdles, add more space in between equipment, swing rope with arms together or alternate arms or create a squat movement while holding onto each rope, etc.

Benefit: For the first time in this progression, you are giving the child choice as well as presenting the jump rope as a jump rope with the intent of jumping it. The choice is expressing how much their decision matters and more importantly, how you are accepting their choice. This is a great time to gauge their comfort level with the jump rope and overall, see how they progressed (cognitively, mentally, physically) over the course of the 12 weeks. This will be showcased if they choose to jump rope or if they choose to move through the obstacle course.

Verbal/Physical Cue: On the schedule, write the following:

[Child’s Name] CHOICE: Jump Rope OR Obstacle Course

Explain what choice means by reiterating, “We can do this or we can do that. It’s up to you!” If she chooses to jump rope, this is not the time to use every cue in the book. See where the child is and how she approaches it. If the child chooses jump rope at this point, that in itself is a huge advancement. Let the child show you how to jump rope (how they have personalized the concept). This is not the time to flood the child with cues and make corrections. If the child chooses the obstacle course, model how to go through it. The Battling Rope may be the activity that needs the most support since this is brand new. 

Set x Rep: If the child chooses to jump rope, jump rope as long as interest remains. Let the child dictate this. If the child chooses the obstacle course, go through the course as many times as the child would like to. The child may find interest in one activity after completing the entire obstacle course and/or the child may want to go through the obstacle course 15x in a row. Continue as long as interest remains.

Let’s start with the first question you’re asking yourself...“So, in 12 weeks it’s possible my child won’t be able to jump rope?” Yes, that’s correct.The 12th week is surprisingly open-ended, for you and the child. It’s a win-win situation—through choice, the child will let you know what he’s ready for. There’s no pressure on you. There’s no pressure on the child. Again, you’ll grasp where the child is, not where you think he should be.

In 12 weeks you may or may not have a child who is jumping rope. What the heck, right? Keep in mind: the act of jumping rope is not our sole intention when using this program. The goal, as you move from week one through week 12, is to progress through the template to maximize ability and overcome fear through appropriate exercise and personal connection. In 12 weeks, for the first time, the child will look at a jump rope and be reminded what he’s able to do rather than what he once was ashamed of trying. Reread the previous sentence one more time.


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