Award-Winning Teacher Helps Autistic Students

Apr 15th 2013

Erin Swick-WashkuhnFinding a time for Erin Swick-Washkuhn to be interviewed for this blog post wasn’t simple.  Choices included running alongside her as she trained for an upcoming 50k race or squeeze in a quick conversation between the physical education classes she teaches at Anderson Elementary School in St. Charles, IL.  I opted for a chat after her 13-mile training run, when she had 15 minutes to spare (read “cool down”).

Needless to say, Erin is one energetic individual, and she’s motivating her students to be equally active.

In 2011, Erin was awarded Mid-West Teacher of the Year.  Today, the excellence she brings to her teaching work continues to reveal itself in new and effective ways when educating students in grades 1 to 5.

When observing one of Erin’s typical classes, you would think the students were... "typical.”  Not so.  Among the many typical students, Erin’s classroom also happens to include children who have been diagnosed with ASD, autism spectrum disorder, and have been mainstreamed into her class.  And that’s where JumpSport enters Erin’s story.

“I’m trying to help my autistic students integrate and go mainstream,” Erin told me.

Whereas children with, “..normal sensory input can process their senses smoothly...those with autism and sensory disorders do not.  This explains why some children with autism seem to walk oddly, because they cannot understand the input they receive through their bodies’ contact with the floor. Therefore, bouncing on a rebounding surface helps teach the body, over a period of time, how to read those impulses it has not been able to interpret.”

Erin Swick-Washkuhn with a JumpSport Fitness trampoline she uses with studentsWorking to make the educational experience equally worthwhile for all her students, Erin uses a JumpSport Fitness Trampoline(TM) in her gym as one way to offset the disruptions that sometimes occur among her special needs students.  She noted that when her autistic students can’t engage with a group activity, she asks them to jump on her JumpSport trampoline for 4 minutes.  Using the timer on an iPad, students rebound independently before returning to the group.  Erin regularly sees a notable difference in children’s behavior after they bounce on the trampoline for that short, 4-minute interval.

Explaining why this happens, Erin shared that trampoline activity allows autistic students to actually “calm their bodies down” which then allows them to fully engage with the rest of the class as any mainstream student would, and that leads to a more productive class for everyone.

Beyond the physical benefits rebounding brings to Erin’s classroom, she uses her JumpSport trampoline as a teaching tool to help children with math and reading skills by having them count and say the A, B, C’s while jumping.  Students consider trampolining as a reward while Erin sees it as a way to help students learn, stay active, and keep their sensory systems in check.  And what do her students think about this teaching strategy?  “They love it!”

In the past, Erin used another brand of trampoline in her classroom but, as she said, “It was real old, had springs, and it would squeak,” which adds to the disruption of the classroom.  She appreciates how safe and quiet the JumpSport Fitness Trampoline is and that it offers more bounce than her previous trampoline; add to that the fact that it folds, and you have a trampoline that can easily be sent home with students.  “Their parents love that, because it helps their autistic kids interact with mainstream kids.”  And for Erin, that’s the goal.

Are you using a JumpSport Fitness Trampoline in a way that’s helping people?  If so, we’d love to hear your story too. Happy Bouncing!

A student jumping on a JumpSport Fitness trampoline