University of Massachusetts

Fit and Fun

 

 

A physical exercise and relaxation program for adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum.

 

 

Fit and Fun: Brief Overview.

 

Fit and Fun: Frequently Asked Questions.

 

Fit and Fun: Brochure

 

Fit and Fun: Enrollment Form

 

Fit and Fun: Driving Directions

 

Fit and Fun: Volunteer Opportunities

 

Fit and Fun: Quotes

 

Fit and Fun: How to Make a Donation

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Fit and Fun: Brief Overview.

 

“Fit and Fun” is an interdisciplinary, university based physical exercise and relaxation program for high-functioning adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D. (UML Department of Psychology) and Deidra Murphy, PT, DPT, MHA, MS (UML Department of Physical Therapy) direct the Fit and Fun program at UMass Lowell. Fit and Fun is for high-functioning adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum (e.g. Asperger’s syndrome) aged between 13-30 years. Fit and Fun runs once a year beginning in February. Sessions take place once a week for nine weeks from 5.00-6.30pm at UMass Lowell south campus. There is a $50 fee to participate in Fit and Fun (scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the fee).

 

 

 

 

 

Fit and Fun: Frequently Asked Questions.

 

 

1)      When and where are the Fit and Fun meetings?

 

Fit and Fun begins runs once a year beginning in February. Sessions are once a week for 9-weeks 4.45-6.30pm in Weed Hall on UMass Lowell south campus. Click here for driving directions.

 

 

2)      What are the main aims of the Fit and Fun program?

 

Participants: Fit and Fun aims to enable participants to increase their fitness level, reduce stress and anxiety, improve self-esteem, and develop reciprocal peer relationships. During the sessions participants will:

 

 

 

UML Students: UML undergraduate and graduate students are involved in Fit and Fun. These students provide excellent role models for those in the program. Many of the students intend to move in to professional positions working with people on the autism spectrum when they graduate. Therefore, Fit and Fun provides a unique opportunity to work with adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum and to connect and apply course content to practical applications. Through their participation students are able to gain the experience and skills they will need to be effective and successful professionals. Students participate for course credit, or as volunteers. Please contact Dr. Hillier or Dr. Murphy for more information, and see the section below on volunteer opportunities.

 

 

Research component: As part of the Fit and Fun program participants and parents are asked to complete some questionnaires before and after the program (although this is not necessary to participate in Fit and Fun). This is critical in enabling Drs. Hillier and Murphy to evaluate the efficacy of the intervention. Once our program model is empirically demonstrated to be effective, Fit and Fun can serve as a model to other organizations around the country who are interested in conducting similar programs. This is very important as few programs currently exist for adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum.

 

 

3)     Who is eligible to participate in Fit and Fun?

 

The Fit and Fun program is for high functioning adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum (e.g. Asperger’s syndrome) who are aged between 13 and 30 years. Participants must provide proof of diagnosis to participate in Fit and Fun (e.g. a recent neuropsychological report, letter from psychiatrist / psychologist etc.).

 

 

4)      How much does it cost to participate in Fit and Fun?

 

There is a $50 fee to take part in Fit and Fun (scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the fees). This covers expenses of the program.

 

 

5)      What do I need to bring to the Fit and Fun sessions?

 

Participants should wear loose, comfortable clothing and sneakers to the Fit and Fun sessions. Participants may want to bring a bottle of water with them.

 

 

6)      How much does it cost to participate in Fit and Fun?

 

There is a $50 fee to take part in Fit and Fun (scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the fees). This covers expenses of the program.

 

 

7)      Do parents attend Fit and Fun meetings?

 

Parents are encouraged to participate in an informal parent support group while their son / daughter attends Fit and Fun. Previous groups of parents have found this group to be extremely beneficial.

 

 

8) Who runs the Fit and Fun program?

 

Dr. Ashleigh Hillier and Dr. Deirdra Murphy run the Fit and Fun program. Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D. is a Psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Dr. Murphy is a professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. Dr. Hillier has spent many years working with adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum and currently runs a number of other programs including the “Aspirations” weekly social and vocational skills program, “The Network” monthly social and vocational skills program, the “SoundScape” music program, and a Movie Club. Further information about these other programs, as well as Dr. Hillier’s resume, can be found on her website: http://faculty.uml.edu/ahillier

 

Dr. Ashleigh Hillier’s brief bio

Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Dr. Hillier completed her PhD in Psychology at the University of Lincoln in England, and her post-doctoral training in the Department of Neurology at The Ohio State University Medical Center.

 

Dr. Hillier’s main research interests include neuropsychology, psychophysiology, and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The focus of her research is the processing and understanding of affective material among those on the autism spectrum. Dr. Hillier’s research includes investigations of emotional memory, physiological responsiveness and subsequent memory for emotion eliciting stimuli, and the effects of psychosocial stress on cognition among those with ASD. Dr. Hillier’s applied research program involves managing and evaluating a number of intervention programs for adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum including social and vocational skills programs, a music based program, and a physical exercise and relaxation program. Her work has resulted in a large number of publications, national and international conference presentations, and grant awards. Further information is presented in her resume which can be accessed here.

 

Dr. Deirdra Murphy’s brief bio

Dr. Murphy is an Assistant Professor at University Massachusetts Lowell’s physical therapy program. Dr. Murphy received her undergraduate degree in physical therapy from Northeastern University. She completed an advanced master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2000.  In addition, she received a Master in Health Administration from Suffolk University in 2001. Dr. Murphy was a 2000-2001 recipient of the Leadership in Education Neurodevelopment Disabilities Fellowship at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, funded through Maternal and Child Health.  In 2004, she received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Massachusetts.

Dr. Murphy actively engages in the community through research, teaching and service.  Dr. Murphy’s research and grant funding has focused on increasing physical activity and nutrition in communities.  She has successfully engaged and supervised UML students’ in local community settings, focusing on fitness programs emphasizing balance and strength, including the Fit and Fun program.  Dr. Murphy’s service in the community has extended internationally and she has provided physical therapy services in Peru.  She has served as the chair of the Healthy Weight Task Force of the Greater Lowell Health Alliance.  She is the Clinical Director for Special Olympics Massachusetts Healthy Athletes Fun Fitness Program.

Dr. Murphy is committed to increasing the effectiveness of health care delivery, promoting health and fitness for people with and without disabilities and connecting students to real world application.

 

 

9) What is the next step for joining Fit and Fun?

 

You can complete an Enrollment Form and either mail or email it to Dr. Hillier (contact information below). Dr. Hillier will then review the enrollment and if it seems like you / your son / daughter is a good match for Fit and Fun she will contact you with further details. You must also mail your proof of diagnosis with the enrollment form (e.g. recent neuropsychological report, letter from psychiatrist / psychologist, etc.).

 

Contact Dr. Hillier at:

 

Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Psychology

University of Massachusetts Lowell

1 Mahoney Hall

870 Broadway Street

Lowell, MA 01851

Phone: 978-934-2930

Email: ashleigh_hillier@uml.edu

 

 

Fit and Fun Brochure

 

    

 

 

Link to Fit and Fun Driving Directions

 

 

 

 

Fit and Fun: Volunteer Opportunities

 

Students at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who are interested in getting involved in the Fit and Fun program should contact Dr. Hillier at ashleigh_hillier@uml.edu. This can be done as a volunteer, or for course credit as perhaps a Directed Study or Community Service course. What have previous students involved in the program said about their experiences?

 

 

Fit and Fun: Quotes

 

Quotes from UML Students:

 

            “It was so exciting for me to be a part of such an enthusiastic and fun group.  I saw a lot of progress being made over the course of the program, and it was great to see all of the students benefiting from their hard work.  I loved it!” Psychology student involved in Spring 2008.

 

          “I had an absolute blast running the Fit 'n Fun program.  I learned a lot about ASD by working with the participants and hope that the guys learned a lot about exercise and health from Amanda and I.  This was a great experience and I would do it over again in a second!” Exercise Physiology student involved in Spring 2008.

 

          “The past 8 weeks have been incredibly rewarding.  These young men were a challenge, but a welcomed one.  We worked very hard each week to customize a motivational and fun fitness program for them that they would be able complete and feel proud of.  I was impressed with their dedication and willingness to learn.  Working with this population was a new experience for me, but I loved it.  Overall, I feel that I learned as much from them as I hope they learned from me.” Exercise Physiology student involved in Spring 2008.

 

          “I am glad that I got to watch these 6 young men progress so much in just 8 weeks.  It was truly remarkable how far they came from the first week to the last.  I got to see first-hand their learning and, in turn, I learned from them.  It was a wonderful experience.”

 Psychology student involved in Spring 2008.

 

 

Quotes from Parents / Guardians:

 

        "[Through participating in Fit and Fun my son] developed better anxiety control and was less likely to make a negative comment when upset about something. He is more open to things spontaneously, it is easier for him to just go with the flow".

 

           "Fit and Fun gave my son something to look forward to, to focus on..... he kept close track of when Monday was coming".

 

          "[My son] felt very positive about it. He never had a complaint about coming. Also the exercise seemed to help with reducing his anxiety".

 

          "It was helpful to me to meet the other parents and get advice from others."

 

          "There is not much other programming out there for this population and age range."

 

          "It's nice to have him busy. He doesn't do anything after school. This gets him out of the house and interacting with others, It has been a  real positive thing."

 

 

Fit and Fun: How to Make a Donation

 

Donations are helpful to maintain and enhance the Fit and Fun program. Monetary donations can be made by writing a check to: University of Massachusetts at Lowell - Fit and Fun, and mailing it to: Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Psychology Department, 1 Mahoney Hall, 870 Broadway Street, Lowell, MA 01864.  A letter of acknowledgement and appreciation will be issued by the University for donations that are made to the Fit and Fun program.  The acknowledgement letter can be used as a receipt when filing taxes.

 

 

Dr. Hillier's Home Page