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Anthony Angelico is strong. His push-ups are performed with impressive stamina, and he can take on hurdles both forward and backwards. His coach, Dave Geslak, who has helped him implement this exercise regimen, is certainly proud of his many physical strides.

But it’s not just his physique that’s improved. His mother Mary has noticed the difference, “He has an improved attitude after with exercise because there are things that have always been a battle, like homework.” Anthony agrees, “I feel a little bit more confident, and I feel a little bit happier that way. I’ve gotten better at my homework and my job.”

Feeling confident and strong is sometimes challenging when you’re 17. And, for Anthony, being on the autism spectrum also presents its own set of challenges, and that’s where exercise comes in. Research has shown the tremendous and tangible benefits of physical activity when it comes to minimizing certain negative behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorders.

Coach Dave, who specializes in exercise programs for young people with autism says,”Sometimes they just have sensory behaviors where things become overwhelming, the lights, the sounds. And just like you and I, we know that if we exercise that morning or later that evening it releases these endorphins in our bodies, and it’s the same thing for our kids. So, with Anthony, he’s had stress when he’s come home from school, or with homework, and then you see him after an hour’s workout. It’s relieved.”

Through his program, Exercise Connection, Coach Dave builds tailored workouts utilizing techniques like structure and visual supports to create an ideal environment for young people, including Anthony, to be successful.

And Mary says, Dave is more than a coach for her son, “Dave actually is a mentor for Anthony, and Anthony will approach Dave with questions and problems that he will not come to us for, or other people in his life.”