Mark Fleming founded Puzzle Piece Fitness as a means to improve the quality and quantity of the lives of people the autism spectrum and/or with related disabilities.
Puzzle Piece Fitness is an in home based personal exercise training service. This is not a typical autism, aspergers or related disabilities kind of therapy. Exercise is a therapy that everybody in life should participate in. The goal is to use functional training individuals with autism that not only incorporates strength and cardiovascular training but can also help motor planning, social skills, and cognitive functioning.
Mark is an adult with autism. He graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelors in exercise science in 2012, and again in 2017 with his masters degree in human performance. He is certified as a personal trainer by the American Council on Exercise.
Mark has a truly unique approach to working with people with autism, as he knows firsthand what it is like. In addition to providing excellent workouts, Mark is a great inspiration and role model to many living with Autism.
From Mark: “Growing up my “special interest” was sports. I constantly hear how I was able to read the box scores in the paper before I could even read. However I also had numerous fine and motor skill deficits that should of prevented me from playing the sports I loved so much, but thankfully had parents that not only allowed me to play but pushed me to play. I was never able to realize my dream of playing sports professionally, but was able to find a new love of fitness in college. After receiving the majority of my education towards a Masters degree, I was given an opportunity to work as a behavior assistant with an applied behavior analysis company working with individuals with Autism. Through my encounters while working in this field plus the encounters I had through volunteering and coaching in Special Olympics I noticed two startling trends. The first is that outside of school physical education, many individuals with Autism have very few opportunities to stay active and healthy. The second is that physical and occupational therapies provide great opportunities for this population in terms of being physically active, however the therapies usually only cover obvious deficits and services are stopped once those deficits are corrected or the individual ages out of the school system. So what I continued to see was individuals with little opportunity to stay active and even fewer opportunities for them to receive proper instruction of correct movement and form. So after realizing that I could help provide these opportunities, I reached out and learned from the few others in the country that have been personally training these individuals for years. After learning as much as I could, I decided to start a business providing personal exercise sessions for this population.” – Mark Fleming