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Episode 5: Autism [Please Stand By]

In episode 5 we shift away from physical disability and get deep into the world of autism.

As portrayed in Please Stand By (2017), autism certainly has the potential to be a peculiar and vastly misunderstood condition.

We do our best to describe autism, and just how variable a diagnosis is, as we unravel Dakota Fanning’s character, Wendy, in this film.

We also talk through what our role is when working with an autistic client, and we speak very honestly about the lessons we’ve learned after one or two (maybe more…) naïve errors.


Three, two, one, hi and welcome to Unaware by Be Physiology. We’re not film critics, we’re not philosophers and we are not living with a disability. We do however have a very unique insight into the lives of the people that we work with. You’re listening to Be Reel series 1 of the Unaware Podcast. What’s up y’all? My name is Aj and I’m Harry and we are Be Physiology, welcome to Unaware the official podcast of Be physiology. This is our first series titled Be Reel, Harry you lovely man, could you explain to the people what Be Reel is in reference to? We are going to be breaking down particular characters, scenarios and disabilities in movies and then thinking about how they relate to our professional life as exercise physiologists. Do they check out or are they a bit off? That’s why we welcome your feedback as well. If we are a little bit off (which we certainly expect at times) by all means please reach out please enlighten us, because this is very much a cathartic experience that allows us to grow as EP’s. We obviously want to be better in the field and we also want to give an understanding of what we see in the field, so this is the biggest purpose of this podcast. We obviously don’t know everything, we’re here to learn and we come from the angle as professionals. Look, we’re not philosophers, we’re not living with a disability, we’re not film critics. However, we do have a very particular view of looking into the lives of the people that we work with. We obviously do this to help us in our practice but also to help us in our everyday lives moving forward. Just quickly to explain what we do as EP’s, (if that is a little bit lost on you) and i’ll make it brief because we’ve spoken about it a few times before. We are essentially using exercise as a form of treatment for disease, injury, illness, whatever it may be. Exercise is essentially our medicine. We are big advocates for the way that exercise can be used to increase somebody’s capacity, function and quality of life. That was actually what I was trying to think of and I lost it but Harry saved me. A few there in front. We should get straight into it. This is episode five, welcome to episode five where we will be having a look at Please Stand By, which was a film released in 2017. It stars Dakota Fanning, it also has Alice Eve and Toni Collette, who I think is Australian? Yes, she is Australian. You know what, just to go off topic very quickly, I hear her name a lot and I know that she’s famous but also I can’t think of like any other Toni Collete films but I know that I have seen her. She’s huge. This is what I mean, I know that she’s huge. I’m the one that knocks. Well you need to work on yourself a little bit first and then hopefully by episode six you’re a little bit more well-rounded as a person. This movie is about a young girl, I don’t believe 21 year old girl named Wendy. She is living with autism. Just a quick summary of the movie or a synopsis, she sees an advertisement for a star trek writing competition where the prize is a hundred thousand dollars I think. She needs to get in her script before a certain time and she escapes from where she’s living with a lot of other people with (I don’t know if it’s autism that all of them have) but there’s a few other people living in the same kind of dorm house set up which seems pretty cool. They have a caretaker who is Toni Collette, also named Scotty in the film which I think that Wendy likes because Scotty’s a character in star trek as well. I think she has a good connection with her. She is writing a script when she realizes that she can’t post it anymore and she has to actually leave to go to LA and hand it in to Paramount Studios. I think it’s a pretty good synopsis. I’m curious, do you like Star Trek, have you watched it? Not a lot of it, I just missed the boat on it I think. I was just a little bit too young. If you just said yes, I wouldn’t have been shocked at all. Oh no, I love Lord of the Rings, I could tell you anything about Star Wars. I knew that you’re, (and this is again going off topic) I just realized that Star Wars if you really break it down as a title is an awful title. Star Wars, awful dialogue, great movies. War in the Stars, it’s a good time. I’ve already contacted them and they’ve pushed back on it for a while now. It’s definitely a series that I kind of missed. I watched the new movies and stuff and they brought out Star Trek. The Star Trek movies, the new ones, but no, I don’t know a whole lot. So you aren’t entering any writing competitions? Generally no I’m not. I think one of the first things that we can say about Please Stand By,and as Harry said Wendy in this film is living in (I wouldn’t necessarily call it a facility) but she’s in (I think the term is) independent disability living. It would be worth saying, and again not a GP or psychologist that is equipped to make any sort of firm diagnosis here but based on what I saw in the film and then what I know of autism within my work with my personal experience. Wendy has a pretty significant case when it comes to autism and part of that is the fact that she lives outside of her own home. A lot of people with autism, number one you probably wouldn’t pick up on it immediately in fact a lot of times you may not pick up on it at all and certainly in my experience (it’s not that I’ve never come across a case but) a majority of the cases that I see, people are more than fine living in their own homes and being cared for by their own parents. So she definitely is to the point where her sister doesn’t trust her with a new baby and the whole kind of movie centers around Wendy wanting to be seen as someone who’s responsible and can help take care of a baby or meet a baby. Because she’s actually quite overjoyed that she’s an aunty. I think that might be a struggle for a lot of people with any sort of disability as not being treated around the disability alone and being able to have the same responsibilities that someone that is neurotypical might have. I think the first kind of instance that you notice that Wendy is not acting typically is her eye contact. She’s not looking directly in the eye, she’s usually staring at the chest to the person that she’s talking to or she’s staring down at her own feet. In your experiences, or actually you want to go into maybe some of those spectrums that autism is diagnosed by? I’ll start by saying as well that you might have some sort of confusion in terms of where autism lies with respect to Asperger’s. Because for a long time there was a differential diagnosis, Asperger’s was considered a completely different syndrome to autism itself. Forgive me because i’ll probably have the year wrong, I think it’s only in the last decade or so where Asperger’s has essentially been removed as a diagnosis. It is now basically just another plot point on what is the autism spectrum. We’ve all heard of the spectrum before and you know as you can imagine that is essentially, (I wouldn’t necessarily call it) a quantified standing of where somebody sits from a neural standpoint from from a behavioral standpoint. But Asperger’s at one point was what we would know today as high functioning autism so somebody who was initially diagnosed with Asperger’s is somebody who has some you know representation on these spectrums. There is a low level at which they demonstrate these typical behaviors of somebody that might be on the spectrum. What are some of those behaviors? As Harry said number one would be eye contact or ability to perceive social cues. Verbal and non-verbal language, sarcasm and jokes and stuff like that. I will talk about this in my experience because as an EP and as a human being, I’ve definitely made errors. Ones that I very much regret, but ones that were essential for my learning curve as an EP. One of those I will get to soon is that you know verbal and nonverbal communication and the way that your body language or your words are sometimes taken in are completely different to the way that you mean them. Again we need to take into account the fact that (i’ll go through a little bit of a list here of some of the spectrums) someone who is at a low level, with respect to function might still be okay in that area. The way that these are listed out is that people will sit on a spectrum for each of these components and from that point there overall they lie somewhere on a bigger spectrum, on an aggregate spectrum. If I explain that very poorly. I was understanding at the start then you lost me towards the end. We’re looking at things like verbal and nonverbal communication, or things like eye contact so that would be one area that you would look at when it comes to autism. Somebody who lacks an interest in taking part in social activities or going to school. Having sustained interest in a particular topic, I think that’s something that a lot of people think. Like an obsessive interest type thing? Yes, some people get really obsessed with puzzles or dinosaurs, things like that. In Wendy’s case it’s Star Trek, there’s also a strict adherence to routine. Being really thrown by a change in routine, which again I think is something that comes up in this movie, also repetitive behaviors. There are a few more that you know are worth going through but I would essentially just be reading a list out. My point is that somebody might be relatively adequate with respect to well (sorry not adequate) but typical with respect to how they behave in social situations. But they might also have a pretty insane interest or pretty intense interest in a particular topic. So on that aspect of autism they rate quite highly on the spectrum and in another they may rate quite low. You can rate quite low in some of those even if you are autistic, but you can rate quite highly as well. It’s some of those spectrums that you’re talking about, you can have three up really high, two in the middle and two down low or something like that and that’s just your individualized spectrum. I may have even done a poor job of explaining that in every aspect in the sense that it’s not necessarily always high or low. You could have a look at someone that’s got a very keen interest in one thing and then someone who’s completely disinterested in general. That’s not normal and this isn’t normal. What you’re looking for is somewhere in the middle. I probably didn’t explain that well enough at the start but I’m glad I remember to correct myself in that regard. Regardless, so that is autism it’s a collection of those symptoms and how they manifest in a child or an adult. Whereas Asperger’s as it was known is essentially someone who shows slight affect with respect to some of these symptoms, high functioning. One thing that you know I mentioned is preparation and how important it could possibly be with someone who is autistic or has autism. I had a client who would come into the the place I was working the clinic at the same time on thursday he would walk into the door at the same time on thursday. 3:29 he come through the door he’d wait out the front if it wasn’t that time yet and I do believe if he didn’t get there in time he just wouldn’t come. Really!? Yes, he would come through the door and then he would go straight to the bathroom, the locker room, put his bag down and then jump onto the cross trainer, do the cross training for a certain amount of minutes, jump off next thing, next thing, next thing, next thing. I do believe at the start he was a bit more rigid and he didn’t like it when the machines weren’t available but as time kind of went on I think he loosened up to the idea of switching the order of his workout around with the guidance and help of the carer he had. He always had the same carer as well which is great but you knew it was him. Every time he would come through the door, you could just look at him. This kind of behavior is kind of what happens with Wendy in the movie in terms of she scheduled everything out and they’d go through their schedule at the start of the movie for the day. Then they’re doing that for the day. When you talk about that scheduling as well, can I ask how you think of that or what you think of that as an EP? Did you find that that made your job easier in some ways and harder in others? Was it quite difficult to then try and elicit some sort of progressive overload at some point? Yes and no, I think it’s good that he was there. It was good that this is part of his schedule and as much as I could throw in something every so often but as much as you could, you just want him to keep on coming back. Keep on coming back and do the exercise because if you have a hard time being social, you’re not going to be in team sports. It’s hard for you to go to a gym where all these other people are going, there’s already things stacked up against you that make living a healthy active lifestyle harder for you to begin with. Having that schedule was probably a good thing looking back at it now. At times you’d get frustrated as a professional for sure but I think it was good. Good question. I had a point to make on the back of that which is where you were talking about how it is difficult for somebody who you know struggles in social situations. To then have the same amount of access to what is a physically active lifestyle or physically active activities. That is one aspect of it where essentially the rules don’t change for anybody with any disability or any condition and that is that you know you need to be active to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But on top of that with respect to autism, there is research that shows that exercise (I think moderate to vigorous intensity exercise) is capable of rendering some sort of effect on hyperactivity or some of the positive symptoms which (to explain very quickly), a negative symptom is something that is taken away and a positive symptom of something that is added. If somebody becomes aggressive that is an added symptom where somebody loses motivation that would be a negative system. It does have an effect on that, so exercise is not just important when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle but it actually will help emotional regulation or something like that. Emotional regulation would be a perfect example of something that exercise may help regulate. Because it quells the highs and the lows maybe. Even recently had started working with a new client and he’s quite young so a lot of the feedback that I’ll get is through his parents. I remember even after the first or second session, the feedback that I got was that the child was an absolute dream after i’d left. That’s not because I did anything particularly impressive with my exercise. I literally just burned some energy with the child for a good hour and that in itself was enough to help regulate some of these behaviors. Makes perfect sense. Not tooting my own horn but it’s giving a perfect demonstration of what being active can do for someone. That’s awesome. One more thing on that routine or scheduling as well, I have another client who if you play music it has to be the particular song and sometimes for the particular amount of time as well. As soon as it goes over a particular time, the first verse and the first chorus, that’s it, turn it off. What’s the response at this point? It’s just a complete lack of attention and because the next thing the client is doing is turning the music off. That’s what they’re doing, they’re not doing anything else except that one thing. I mean just turn the music off. It sounds like me at a party, if I’m in charge of the aux cord, we get one verse. All right we’re turning the whole thing off.

In the movie I noticed that Wendy’s mood was very affected by music. She had an ipod the whole time and she was listening to the ipod to shut off the external world in a way. I don’t know if other people have this happen to them, but if someone with autism does they like listening to music and kind of shutting off all the external sounds? There was a young fella that I used to work with as well, he was non-verbal and had autism. We have to turn the music down in the clinic. If he was doing a cable machine or something like that and the weights smashed that would really set him off and scare him even and he would just drop everything and walk away. I was gonna cut in there and the difficulty for us EP’s is we have a clinical goal and obviously a lot of the time it takes the full 60 minutes in a session to get through everything that we want to get through. So these momentary lapses that are essentially controllable, you are in charge of the music to some extent. You can moderate how quickly a weight drops if you’re there and doing your best and understanding your client and being able to control what you can goes a long way to having a successful session. One thing in particular with the dropping the weight, if you were spotting the cable he’d start letting go of the thing all together and then you’d just be doing it. He’d just be resting his hands on the handle and you’d say oh you got me. Obviously you have to try something else like put something soft between the plates and smash together because he was just like oh sweet you’re doing this sweet take over. Then I’m there just doing the exercise for him so just little things like that you can always tap to I think. On that same point, while I was on prac I was still a student at this point   so I don’t think I’d ever come across (at least in a clinical setting) a client or a person with autism, or not had to work with them in a professional sense certainly. While I was working with this client the fire alarm went off and I had no idea about the sensory input and the way that that might affect somebody with autism. I was completely taken off guard at  the reaction that was had by this client. Granted she was relatively fine for the most part but I could not get through a session, she basically just covered her ears and just sat there like so on a leg extension machine and waited for the alarm to end, which as you can imagine in a fire drill it took a little while. I’m sitting there with my tail between my legs because you know I’m essentially trying to prove to myself that I’m a good EP, I’m just about to enter the real world and I literally have no control. I don’t want to skip too far to the takeaway points when it comes to being an EP and working with somebody with autism. But a lot of the time you do need to drop your professional ego aside and understand that in a lot of ways, you don’t have full control over how somebody might react. Of course that’s in the context of any client regardless of whether or not they have autism. But in autism especially, I have had a lot of learning curves because people are so different. We spoke before about these individual spectrums and where somebody sits overall. You can make the error of treating one client like another and it can go horribly wrong. You’re right. I I did say that I would cut back to this and that is, again an error that I made. It only became evident to me that I’d made an error after I was given some feedback again from somebody who was close to the client. With this client we had really successful lessons beforehand and we had (I was about to say bartered, we didn’t barter for any money, we weren’t selling things) there was some very light banter. It was in reference to mario kart. Plenty of banter around mario kart! I actually hadn’t realized before but I suppose when I look back on the entire progression of my work with this client is that he’d more than likely initiated all of that banter prior to. Then there was one particular lesson where I initiated the banter and slightly out of context, so it was in a race context I was trying to get the client to pick up the speed of their activity. So I tried to challenge them as if it were a race and when the client declined, I sort of used the same banter that we’d used talking about mario kart and beating him in mario kart. It did not go down well. I could tell that at some point something shifted but even then because what I said and how I meant it was so playful it didn’t dawn on me until after the session had finished that that was where I’d made the error. This is because it’s a serious thing for him? To the client it was essentially taken as like a jibe, it was not a playful bit of banter it was a verbal attack. I can say here, hand on heart that it was not that at all and the tone of my voice to somebody that is neurotypical it would not have been misconstrued in that way. But that is an example and that was a huge learning curve. It’s like what words mean, what you say, it’s like reading a text. That’s what it might be like for that client, it’s just seeing subtitles on this blank screen and then they have to interpret it as they can so that’s really interesting. That’s exactly right. That was well said because I think of another client, thankfully I didn’t make any errors with this client in particular but it was probably one of my early introductions to autism. I was actually given (not necessarily) a warning, that’s not the right word. I was told prior to seeing this client that the dialogue that you would have with him, you would tell quite quickly that it almost seemed as if it was rote learned. So the way that he would respond to a particular question (whether it was how was your day, how are you?) it didn’t necessarily seem like it was a genuine response to my question. It was this is how you respond to that particular question. I would say that this person was probably in the area of being able to communicate effectively, on that area was probably on one end of the spectrum. This was in the same alignment where he wasn’t necessarily able to maintain eye contact with me very well. Having heard that previously as a ‘look this is what you might notice about this client’ and then seeing that was a pretty surreal experience as an EP getting to know the condition of autism.That’s amazing to me listening to that now, I’m starting to think back a lot more and starting to think about how I’ve actually interacted. I’m such a gesture heavy person, and inflect of my voice person, and obviously I love to joke around in sessions as well. I’m just trying to try to think back if I’ve actually done something like that and not even noticed, something along those lines. That’s really interesting AJ. How do you think that that is reflected in Wendy? I was just trying to think about it then and think back to the movie with respect to the way that she has conversations in the film. It doesn’t necessarily seem like she’s just spitting out a learned response to questions, but from memory some of her speech is to an extent somewhat robotic. I think it definitely is. Her speech is because she writes down everything in a notebook as well. She writes down (there’s a bit that says) you need money to buy a ticket. She wrote that down ‘you need money to buy a ticket’ in the book and then when she went up to buy a ticket at a later point, she said ‘you need money to buy a bus ticket’. Then the bus person says ‘yes you do, it’s this much money’ and then she starts to hand over the money. I understand where you’re coming from in terms of that’s her on the ropes learning type mechanism of writing in the book and then being in the same situation, or I’m at a place where it sells tickets, I’m going to read what’s on the thing. This will happen whatever this is, they don’t really know what the interaction is and that would be quite scary as well. In that instance, when you’re looking at Wendy, her goal is to buy a bus ticket. Her method of doing it, while very unconventional when you compare it to say Harry or I, it is successful. Wendy as a character has essentially learned her best way to go about   tackling some of these interactions. She has a way of going about it and it’s successful albeit a little bit unconventional. The person that she’s talking to always seems to have a funny look on their face. Where have you come from? Where’s your mother? Or something like that. Or a suspect look like ‘are you gonna rob me here or something like that?’ It definitely seems to be the normal response of a lot of people that she talks to. 

I will say even not really having experienced that you know autism all that much in my life, from what I do know of it seemed as if Dakota Fanning did a pretty reasonable job of hitting the higher end of what autism can be. Definitely in the even in the obsessive compulsive type or what was that particular spectrum. Is that the sustained interest? Yes, so a lot of people will lock on to one particular thing. Because the whole movie is about her ability to actually relate to Star Trek through one of the characters, because one of the characters finds it hard to read human emotions. So when you make that connection in the movie, you can see why she just is obsessed with this universe. Because there’s someone on tv who feels she could relate. She could really relate to no one in her life, and that’d be so lonesome but having this one character to relate to obviously might pull them towards that hyper-focused part of the spectrum as well. That was really well said. I think also from a representation standpoint to see somebody in film, which I think is almost in a coming full circle kind of way. Something that we discuss here is that representation of disability in film. Obviously Dakota Fanning doesn’t have autism but her character, like you just said, has an affinity for this other character on account of the fact that they share some personality traits. It’s another thing to mention the strain on family relationships. Because we talked about it before, her sister has just had a baby and she wants to be part of that family dynamic. Their mother had died so now her sister can’t look after her anymore because she’s having a baby with her husband, and wants to move forwards with that part of her life. Wendy is living in the assisted living space which is a good space, it looks like a good place for her to be living. It definitely isn’t portrayed as a prison or anything like that but it’s the strains that these things can have on families. That’s definitely true in my experience as well where parents or mothers of the client that I’m working with are so fully focused on that child all the time. You can see a weight get lifted off their shoulder when they just go ‘here you go here’s this person for an hour, you guys know each other well enough now that I can step out of the room’ and they can go ‘okay what else do I have to do for the day?’ And they have that hour-long space where they can actually focus on something else. For their other kids. It’s a good point being especially a younger sibling of somebody that has autism, I mean you look at your older siblings always as somewhat of a role model especially at a young age. You know in my experience you can see sometimes within families that difficulty is trying to maintain a normal standard of behavior when you can’t necessarily enforce things the same way. Because you’re not necessarily working with what is   neurally typical. 

That’s such a hard point because you hear all the time, you’d say to your Mum ‘who’s your favorite Mum?’ and ‘no, I treat all of you the same. You’re all my children’. When we come to someone with a sibling, with a disability like autism. It’d be very difficult for that child who doesn’t have autism as well. Or it could be very difficult (I don’t know) for them to adjust and understand that relationship between the mother and their sibling, and the mother and them is going to be different. Especially when you’re not old enough to even understand that there can be a discrepancy there and why there is a difference. It’ll take plenty of time for me to understand that so I can understand other people having issues with that if you’re a child. I’ve spoken previously as well about something that can be a little bit awkward as an EP. Working with especially children and that is that we have more than one responsibility when it comes to working with a client especially a child. Number one is safety, obviously. Let’s get that one out of the way. But we have clinical goals that we want to try and meet, but we also can’t compromise the work that a parent does when it comes to trying to maintain behavioral standards. We can consider ourselves lucky in some sense that after 60 minutes, we go home. So even when we have a bad session, I’m not saying that we’re looking to only deal with these kids for 60 minutes at a time. But if you were to ever have a bad session, at 60 minutes you go home and you reassess and recalibrate. You can basically ease yourself of what can be a stressful situation. As Harry just said, sometimes it’s nice for the parents to go ‘here you go for 60 minutes’. We inevitably give them right back and sometimes because we’re going on our own learning curve and trying to understand (especially new clients), we don’t always give them back better off. Like I said, I’ve made silly comments before or I’ve done silly things that I wasn’t consciously doing but that would undoubtedly have upset the client and that will undoubtedly have a ripple effect for the rest of their day. That responsibility is trying not to, number one, upset or deter the client’s motivation to stay in an exercise environment. But also not allowing certain behaviors just to fly by on account of the fact that you’re trying to get through your goals. Because you will very much then (what’s the word that I’m looking for you?) will take away from a parent. You’ll compromise what a parent is doing full time just so you can get through 60 minutes and that in itself is extremely selfish. We have to find this middle ground and we’re not parents. So we haven’t got our own dummies to work on. Saying that as well, I must say that every client that I’ve worked with who has autism, I’ve had a very good relationship with their carers or their parents. That’s a good point actually, because they are the number one source to help you not detriment the session or understand the client. You need to know as much about that person as possible and you’ve got to try and just cruise through it at the beginning and just learn about each other as much as possible, and then you can be effective. That’s exactly right. Then you gotta always put your thinking hat on every time you go onto that session as well. Because one little thing that you say (as you said before), that could be the difference between them just not wanting to do the session anymore or not wanting to be active anymore. You don’t know how you’re going to affect them. Actually, you made such a good point there right at the start of that where you were talking about learning from the parents and trying to understand who the client is so you’re not necessarily going into it blind. I have no experience with this. I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a GP, so I’ve never made a diagnosis of autism. But I do remember reading somewhere that one of the difficulties that is paramount when it comes to an autism diagnosis, is that GP’s and psychologists have to work a lot off the feedback that they’re getting from these parents. Because otherwise they’re essentially going off what is a 30 or 60 minute consultation and that is not always a lot of time to make a diagnosis that somebody will live with for the rest of their life. Or a good representation of the rest of the day, you can have a good hour and you can have a bad hour. That’s exactly right. That’s not to say that there’s a whole bunch of incorrect diagnosis going around. It’s to highlight how important parents are or caregivers in the sense of understanding the client. Then as EPs, you need to use that  relationship as much as possible so that you can take over. So that the parent can have that hour off and rest and do whatever, send emails, or work or whatever they need to do for that hour. 

Wendy has a little dog that she loves throughout and is kind of a substitute for maybe caring for a child throughout the movie. That kind of got me thinking about companion dogs, have you had any clients with companion dogs or anything like that before? Guide dogs? I have had one, but the companion dog was never necessary at our session so I knew that this client was actually, I take that back. The companion dog was never around during one of our sessions. But there was a particular session and this particular client was very concerned with being in control. We spoke before about our responsibilities as EP’s, one of them not undoing the good work of a parent. Part of that is not allowing  any client or any child to get away with murder. It’s a really difficult thing because sometimes when you’re trying to play that authority figure you’re toeing a fine line. But you’re toeing it either way because you’re either going to allow these bad behaviors to continue, in which case the kids are smart enough to know that they’ll get away with it forever then. Or you sort of have to try and moderate the way you go about it, but you try and moderate the session. A particular example is essentially this client who was a young boy was very much always trying to be in control of this session. Did he have a dog? He had a companion dog, so the companion dog never came to our sessions. It wasn’t necessary. But at one stage when a session went a little bit haywire on account of not necessarily anything that i’d done wrong as an EP, but just I suppose a natural response to the situation itself. Then the mother bought in the companion dog and it was this really cool thing. The companion dog, what he would do is he sits on the client’s lap and pushes down and it helps to just calm the child. Because then any sort of physical manifestation of an emotional episode (I’m not sure how else you can really describe it), it will sort of help calm the client. I’m not sure if every companion dog works in the same way. But I know in this instance, or in my experience, that is how the companion dog was used in at least one aspect and it was really really cool to see that firsthand. It definitely seems like one of the most important jobs of a companion dog is that particular thing. Young child with autism having trouble with filtering, or understanding, or comprehending emotion and the dog being able to just level him back out. I think that’s amazing because a lot of times I’ve seen companion dogs, they’re very useful but not as potently as that (I think that was the right word). Or it’s not as effective, it doesn’t look like they’re actually doing anything. It’s just they’re in the room and the person is now just generally calmer because the dog’s in the room. I’ve had a couple little dogs in my sessions before and they’ll just sit on the ground next to us and I’ll pat him because he’s not working or anything like that so I’m definitely patting that dog. There’s ones that will come with me to gyms and things like that. I’ve had a little bit to do with guide dogs as well for vision impairment and they’ve all got a very specific reason why they’re with that person. But that one in particular that you talked about was very cool. Being able to bring him back down to earth a little bit. They do have a few roles. I don’t know too much about it but I also remember hearing that one of the roles of the companion dog was to walk out in front of the client and sort of shift left and right and what that was for was to provide some space for the client. So even in a crowd you’re never too taken up by the crowd itself. I’m sure that there are plenty of roles that these dogs   have and I know two of them. You saying that, I just remember the client of mine has a seizure smelling dog. So really when they start to sweat, the scent is different that comes out of the pores, the dog detects that smell and starts barking to alert the client so they can get in a position where they can have a spasm without hurting themselves. It’s pretty cool. That is interesting, I actually didn’t know that, that’s crazy. Alrighty, so to wrap things up, what did you think generally just about Wendy’s representation of autism? Like I said, I thought that it was a pretty decent representation but at the same time I’m speaking from a level of experience where I haven’t really had to work all that often with somebody at that level. I thought the manifestations that I saw were certainly more evident than what I know of it. If I can take anything away (and not necessarily from the movie itself) but if I can give anything. I think we’ve mentioned this previously, is that you know the way that autism manifests is so different from person to person. There are certainly signs and consistencies that you see among autism. But you are running a gauntlet if you think that you can treat two people the same way. I think it’s more important than ever with autism than to sound it out before you say it. For sure. That’s great, to be honest I thought that Wendy definitely showed the textbook examples of some things I’ve noticed but everyone’s different. Who knows how she’d go in an exercise session? I don’t know if it would actually follow any kind of guidelines or parameters that you set for her. But it would be interesting. Cool, alrighty, thanks for joining us again this has been Be Reel, a podcast from Be Physiology. I’m Harry, I am AJ and have a good one.


You’re listening to Be Reel, series 1 of the Unaware podcast. I feel like I’m more aware now.

Meet the hosts

Be Physiology

At Be Physiology we focus on exercise and movement for the management and improvement of neurological and chronic conditions.

Related Podcast

Trent Brock | Mobile Exercise Physiologist

Trent Brock

mobile exercise physiologist
I have had 3 major passions throughout my life; exercise, competitive sports, and a strong will to help others. Those 3 factors made it an easy decision to pursue a career as an exercise physiologist. By encouraging and facilitating evidence-based exercise rehabilitation, I can help individuals living with various chronic conditions, particularly those living with neurological conditions.
I see exercise physiology as an extremely beneficial practice that enables clients to experience an improved quality of life. Personally, being able to provide insight into exercise and other tools that can equip clients with helpful skills and wellbeing improvements is extremely fulfilling. Being able to improve not only an individual, but their support network’s day-to-day life fills me with great joy and motivates me to continue to be better so that I can do better. I understand that everyone has a different view of exercise and there is no one-size fits all approach, so I operate with an open and adaptive mind, supported by evidence-based practices. If you or anyone that you know is looking to improve their quality of life and begin a journey to improved living, or just have any general questions, get in touch and let's have a chat!
Michelle Marais AEP

Michelle Marais

mobile exercise physiologist
My passion for movement, health, and helping others led me to become an Accredited Exercise Physiologist. Through this role, I facilitate exercise-based rehabilitation for individuals with various chronic conditions, with a primary interest and area of expertise in neurological conditions.
To me, exercise physiology is about equipping clients with valuable skills that make daily tasks easier and empowering them to achieve their goals while enjoying the process.I take great pride in being a part of my clients' rehabilitation journey and exploring new methods with them to find the optimal exercise approach that works best for them.If you have any questions or are interested in starting your journey to a happier, healthier lifestyle, please feel free to reach out to me.
Angus Sullivan AEP

Angus Sullivan AEP

Mobile Exercise Physiologist
As an accredited exercise physiologist, I see my role as an opportunity to facilitate a safe and effective environment for my clients to explore their physical capabilities, identify areas where they would like to improve, and then prescribe meaningful and appropriate activities to achieve these improvements.
I currently work predominantly with individuals living with disability and have a keen interest in acquired brain injuries (ABI), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), cerebral palsy (CP), spinal cord injuries (SCI) and rare neurological conditions.
To me, exercise physiology is not only about achieving narrow objective goals (eg. 1 Rep Max bench press), but improving an individual’s lifestyle and making activities of daily living easier (mobilising, transferring, feeding, and more).
I love what I do and enjoy learning new methods and discussing different opinions about exercise. I am always happy to chat about it so please get in contact if you have any questions or knowledge that you wish to share!
Our team of mobile exercise physiologists

Walter White

manager of good vibes
Being active has taken on a whole new meaning and I am 100% here for it. I like to fink I'm pretty active, and I keep up de vibes during team meetings - just making sure everyone's hands are always moving (across my butt) because I know dat any exercise is good exercise.
I keep close to everyone, real close, just to keep dem on their toes when dey walk by too.
Fings are always better when I am der so if you need some good vibes, I will be der for you.
Brb just going to have a snooze.
Love and licks,
Brittney Kenward

Brittney Kenward

co-founder / Operations manager
I’m NOT an exercise physiologist, but I do take my hat off to my team and get to admire the work they do each and every day. Be Physiology means that we’re able to apply our passion, and our experience, to make exercise physiology more accessible to the people who need it the most.
You might hear the team describe me as ‘the person who does everything else’, and that can be translated to ‘marketing and operations'. My background is marketing and business, which I’ve lived and breathed since 2011. I’ve worked in both the agency and corporate spaces, across many industries, with many amazing people and now with Be Physiology, I get to explore the health industry further and continue to meet the most incredible people who are the ones to define motivation.
If you’ve met Harry and Aj, you’d know that they don’t really need marketing - they’re genuine, have ridiculous amounts of charisma, knowledgeable, and extremely passionate about helping people to be a better version of themselves. But, sometimes getting an introduction is the hardest part and that’s where I come in.
If you want to chat, a coffee, a laugh, I’m always here to make one or all of them happen.

So call me and let’s keep sharing the love!
Keegan Betts AEP

Keegan Betts AEP

mobile exercise physiologist
As an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, my work is driven by my passion for movement, health, and empowering others. With my experience working with individuals of all ages who have neurological conditions such as autism, stroke, and cerebral palsy, I focus on delivering activity-based therapy to optimise their independence.
Seeing people empowered and handling daily tasks easier is incredibly rewarding, as well as being able to give others the tools to improve their mental health and prevent secondary health conditions.
I know the importance of creating a welcoming and safe environment particularly when improving our health and I always strive to ensure everybody feels supported by the team around them and receives the highest level of care.
Get in touch today and let's make it happen.
Kristen McCluskey

Kristen McCluskey

Mobile Exercise Physiologist
If you spend as little as 10 minutes a day exercising, it will still make a huge difference to your overall physical and mental health - this is a fact and it is very often underappreciated! The benefits of exercise don’t discriminate and the rumours are true, exercise is medicine.
Spinal cord injuries, neurological conditions and women’s health are areas I find to be very dynamic and that I am particularly passionate about, but all aspects of exercise physiology are unique and have a significant impact on people’s everyday lives and I want to continue bringing it to those who will benefit the most from it.
I'm passionate about learning new methods and learning what my clients enjoy and how they approach exercise. I am always happy to chat about the many benefits and outcomes of exercise physiology so please get in contact if you have any questions or knowledge that you wish to share.
If you’re interested in learning more about who I am or want to ask any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch at .
Charlotte Gill

Charlotte Gill

marketing assistant
My name is Charlotte, and I'm a sports enthusiast currently studying for a marketing degree. Although I am not an exercise physiologist, I have a passion for sports having a background in ski instructing and adaptive skiing. Like the team, I believe exercise is medicine and share a similar passion and values to help and motivate others I meet.
I've been fortunate enough to work globally with a background in event management, ski instructing, administrating, and climbing supervisor. However, working alongside the Be Physiology team as my dream role in marketing is a highlight. If you have had the pleasure of meeting the team, you will know their genuine, funny, knowledgeable, and passionate to help others. These are values that I also pride myself in, and I am so fortunate to be surrounded by like-minded colleagues.
Harry White AEP

Harry White AEP

co-founder / supervisor
Exercise physiology combines two of my favourite things: health and helping people. As an accredited exercise physiologist with more than seven years’ clinical experience, I have treated people presenting with a wide variety of health conditions and concerns, postural issues, chronic injuries and rehabilitation needs.
My expertise is spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders and helping my clients to achieve an improved quality of life through rehabilitation and functional training. Rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders can be slow but incredibly rewarding for clients when results are achieved, no matter how small. Assisting people through learning useful skills and functional training is the most important role that an EP can play to help people lead a more fulfilled life.
Working for many years with people who have suffered serious injury or live with a disability, I know that taking a proactive approach to your health changes your life. If you care for your body, it will take care of you.
I’m passionate about helping people live a long, healthy and active life, so call today.