The Capital Times spotlighted the work of UW–Madison’s Luis Columna and his Fit Families program for its “Research inspired by COVID-19” series. The article is headlined, “Luis Columna brings exercise to children with autism virtually.”
Columna is an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Kinesiology.
Fit Families, currently based at UW–Madison, began at Syracuse University as an extension of Columna’s work in Guatemala for children with visual impairments, the article explains. Its focus now is on offering workshops for children with autism.
At Syracuse, Columna and his team hosted parents of children with autism for weekend sessions, teaching them games and activities to do with their children, and also organized activities into a book for families to take home and purchased physical education equipment for the families with grant money.
“One of the things that parents face is a lot of barriers. Financial barriers. They don’t have the time. But the most important barrier is that they don’t know how to engage their kids in physical activity,” Columna told the Capital Times. “The grand majority love physical activity, they believe it is important, but they don’t know how to do it.”
When Columna arrived at UW–Madison in 2019, he immediately got to work adapting the program for the Department of Kinesiology. Though he was able to get the program up and running by 2020, it was quickly forced to move online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The shift to virtual instruction has resulted in some unexpected benefits. For instance, the Fit Families team has discovered new ways to collect data, and is better prepared to eventually expand the program into Wisconsin’s rural areas and beyond, Columna said.
“When COVID hit, parents told us during the interviews they don’t know what they would have done without the program, because the program became the PE curriculum for the entire family,” Columna said. “I always knew that I wanted to do this all over the world, but what COVID did is push us to do it sooner.”
View the full article at madison.com, here.