Business is Booming for Gyms Specializing in Training for Those with Autism

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Business is Booming for Gyms Specializing in Training for Those with Autism

David Geslak, ACSM EP-C |  Sept. 23, 2021
man in blue sweatshirt coaches a young man on a trampoline

How the Autism Exercise Specialist Certificate is Helping Fitness Centers Flourish

As customers remain hesitant to return to the gym amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some who really need -- and benefit -- from face-to-face training. As I’ve said in previous ACSM blog posts, people with autism learn best with ​​individualized, in-person instruction in both the school and therapy settings.

 So, what if catering to those with autism could actually help you grow your fitness business? After earning the Autism Exercise Specialist (AES) Certificate, these two women did just that.

First, meet Sana Ghawas who owns the Wonder Fitness Gym in Bahrain, a gym specifically for those with autism. As a mother of a child with autism, Sana quickly learned about the benefits of exercise firsthand. At the time of her son’s diagnosis, she was also dealing with an ACL injury.

“Exercise, in general, helped a lot emotionally, to get over all those days of ups and downs,” she said. And Sana wanted to share her knowledge with as many people as possible.

 She did her research and discovered the American College of Sports Medicine / Exercise Connection AES Certificate. Earning the certificate was a turning point.

 “It made all the difference,” Sana said, explaining that having the certificate from two reputable organizations was key to gaining the trust of new clients. Plus, the skills and techniques she learned from the certificate went beyond what she already knew from her own experience.

 “How to give instructions to the athlete, how to assess motivation, how to give him choices in the workout to feel like he's also in control… [it makes] the training session successful in all aspects.”

 The Wonder Fitness Gym celebrated its one-year anniversary this summer, and Sana is having two more coaches virtually earn their AES Certificate this October.

 Back here in the U.S., Adapted Physical Education teacher Kristin Kmack launched her own business shortly after earning the AES Certificate. She said her company Maur Movement “provides personal and small group training to individuals of all ages and abilities throughout the capital region of New York state.”

 “The AES certificate provided a foundation for operation and connected me to a network of reputable and respected professionals in the field,” Kristin said. “Earning the AES Certificate was the catalyst for starting Maur Movement and having the credential has undoubtedly supported its growth.”

 Both Kristin and Sana said they have recommended the AES Certificate to others. You can earn the certificate yourself this fall by first completing the online course. And in October Exercise Connection is offering a virtual workshop series needed to fulfill the other half of the virtual workshop series needed to fulfill the other half of the Certificate.

 “In my role as both a personal trainer and an APE teacher, my ultimate goal is to empower individuals with autism through exercise,” Kristin said. “The AES certificate serves to equip more professionals with the skills and resources to do the same, creating a broader impact.  I take pride in holding the AES certificate and reference it often with high regards to parents, colleagues and administrators alike.”

Grow your business AND change lives for those with autism in your community by earning the Autism Exercise Specialist Certificate.

More resources

Register for the online course.

Read about "3 Key Elements to Successfully Training Children with Autism."

Read "Challenging Autism with Exercise: An Opportunity Worth Stretching For," from ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal®.

Read "Exercise is a Life-Changer for Those with Autism," from ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal®.


David Geslak, ACSM EP-C, graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Health Promotion. As a Para-Educator and Fitness Coordinator at a school for children with autism, Coach Dave experienced first-hand the challenges of teaching exercise. By understanding that students with autism learn differently, he developed a system that has become a breakthrough in effectively teaching exercise. Twelve universities have incorporated his program into their Adapted Physical Education and Special Education Programs.