Session: connection failed

Truly Special Populations by Josh MacDonald - CrossFit Journal

Truly Special Populations

By Josh MacDonald

PDF Article

Josh MacDonald uses a host of methods to help children move better, and he’s finding CrossFit is a great tool for a pediatric occupational therapist.

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I work with children with a wide variety of diagnoses, including autism, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and developmental delay. While each diagnosis is unique, many share some common characteristics. Many of these children have movement disorders that stem from muscle weakness, sensory processing disorders and severely reduced muscular and cardiovascular endurance. The result is children who struggle to interact with their world independently and safely.

As an avid CrossFitter of almost two years, I quickly saw how a focus on quality functional movement patterns could benefit these kids on my caseload. I started dabbling in the use of some of the movement principles and simple workouts during my sessions. But I knew I needed more training and information if I was going to make the most of CrossFit at our clinic. I decided to go to a Level 1 Certification and the CrossFit Kids Certification to make sure I was using the right cues, movement progressions and workouts.

Attending these two certifications was well worth the time and price. I learned countless techniques and strategies, as well as the ability to adapt CrossFit for use with children. What I had to figure out for myself, however, was how to adapt all of that information to the special-needs population.

Free Download


7 Comments on “Truly Special Populations”


wrote …

I find it amazing that Crossfit is not more know around the world. I commend you for using Crossfit in your line of work. Not only are you helping these children, you are making it fun and beneficial to them. You should stop for a second, look in the mirror, and tell your self that you are proud of YOU. I know I am, and I have never met you. Thanks for doing what you do.


wrote …

what a terrific use of the foundations of crossfit. i have a sister with prader-willi syndrome and i can only imagine how this type of therapy could have helped her as a kid. have you worked with that type of kid? I'm going to share this with the PW community.


wrote …

I have a brother with autism who is 19. I work at a school for kids with special needs. I loved this article. I have been crossfitting for three years and have been wondering all along how crossfit could be used to help these guys. Glad there are smarter, more motivated people than me out there actually doing it. I'm definitely going to give this article to the OT department where I work.


wrote …

Terrific article. As a father of a special needs child and avid crossfitter, it always brings enjoyment to me to see people trying other methods for development and pushing children. Josh I hope you take time to read the comments. Not to create a dificult scenario, but I would love to pick your brain to know where and how you can incorporate CrossFit methods (or have you and what have you seen as success?) into children with motor delay, low muscle tone, with an inability to walk or crawl and limited core stability. Keep up the great work, you are giving not only the kids enjoyment and sense of hope, but also the families.


wrote …

The timing of this article couldn't get any better. I, too, have a daughter, Alex, 15, with autism. She took her 2nd crossfit class at CF Santa Clara... and I have to say, she loves it. It not only gives her an outlet to exert her physical abilities, but a way to interact socially with the other kids in the group. I now know I have a purpose in Crossfit, and like you, Josh, still have to work at finding a way to apply it so that others can benefit.


wrote …

If you have any questions, or anyone else for that matter, I can be reached on my email at I mostly only work with the special needs population in our therapy clinic, but the kids classes we lead at Crossfit Fury occasionally include kids with low tone, significantly poor coordination and attention problems. We are working to include these kids as much as possible in the workouts while improving their areas of need. It really has been great to see how much fun kids have with these workouts.


wrote …

I start physical therapy school next week, I have no doubt crossfit will play a huge role in the way I treat and diagnose patients in the future. When I was a tech it was my goal to have an elderly patient do a correct squat before they left.

Leave a comment

Comments (You may use HTML tags for style)