Natural Transition

Robin has moved past CrossFit, after six years, to Kick Boxing, May 2017. It is equally as challenging but closer to home.


The Ultimate Challenge – CrossFit:


Update on Robin's CrossFit:


No words are needed here! The picture of Robin says it all!


Robin is still very motivated and loves her CrossFit. She is now training with Francine, parallel with a regular class, 2x's a week. It was important to me that Robin train with other people. Francine, Robin's personal trainer, has made all of this possible. As most parents know, a one-to-one relationship, for a person with autism, is what makes our children's goals possible.


To support her CrossFit, Robin has joined the Body Pump class at our local YMCA. She does this once a week and it is closer to home. Her favorite, however, is the CrossFit.


Weight loss was not a particular goal for Robin in CrossFit; however, she has lost 8 pounds and turned fat into muscle. She's down 1-2 pant sizes. This incredible transformation is the combination of the Paleo diet and exercise. As a bonus, Robin's language processing and comprehension have improved greatly. She is egar to workout and her bad choices in food have been replaced by healthy eating and exercise. I am so excited for her!


I am still Robin's "Meals on Wheelss" for the Paleo diet but she is beginning to pick up much more responsibility. She is now preparing and packing balanced meals on her own at my house, then taking them to her house, 24 hours at a time. If I give her any more food, for example, a bag of apples to keep in her refrigerator, they will be gone the next day.Yes, she does eat them to the core.


The Paleo diet for CrossFit encourages healthy eating and a lot of protein. Robin even has a protein drink and bar (Paleo Simplified) before and after her trainings. I buy mostly organic products and grass-fed beef. Vegatables are important and, fortunately, Robin loves them all. We seldom eat out (which saves a lot of money). If she does eat out, she has Shrimp Coctail and house salad, minus the croutons and cheese. She's very careful not to 'cheat' twenty-four hours before CrossFit because she has learned it makes a big difference in her energy and strength output! Her waredrobe is now all sleeveless.


I told Robin, several months ago, that she had to give something up in her schedule. She was burning her candle at both ends. She came back to me several days later, and said, "I have decided to give up Language Therapy." As a compromise, she has cut it in half, twice a month. We are evaluating her stability and will continue to reduce the therapy as she requested.


Robin's favorite TV show has been "The Biggest Loser" for years. To reinforce this, I bought her Al Roker's new book, "Never Going Back" because she has always liked to read personal stories. It was an incredible eye-opener for her. She could really relate to his OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) with food. She really 'got it' when he talked about needing to weigh daily, even to the point of taking his scale and blender on travel. I 'got it' when I realized the importance of a personal trainer and that Robin, just like Al Roker, is always going to need this support. The trainer keeps Robin on track with diet and exercise. Francine is motivational and she helps Robin understand the importance of accountability; i.e., responsibility!


Robin has reached an incredible level of independence for an individual with autism; however FOOD has always been a bridge between us. Robin's success cannot depend on my structure and continual reinforcement for her. She's got to do it herself.


Baby steps! I just know, she is going to reach this goal of independence just like she has reached all the others challenges and goals in her life.



An Extraordinary “Ordinary” Success

by LorRainne Jones, M.A., CCC-SLP, Ph.D., BCBA

Director, Kid Pro Therapy Services, Inc

(Robin's Speech-Language Therapist)


At the end of her article about Robin Millan, Cross Fit trainer, Francine Dersch, wrote “ Robin’s progress has surprised me. We will continue to keep you posted on how she is overcoming obstacles and how she is moving forward. I am excited for her. Stay tuned .” (see below post)


Success at Cross Fit. Success at gaining and sustaining employment. Success at living independently. When one considers Robin’s early years, these successes could not have been further from reality as one looked to the future for young children diagnosed with autism in the early 1970s.


The odds were against Robin. For most children like her, their future days would be spent in the barren “day rooms” of the residence halls in large state-run institutions. For those who would be “successful”, their days would be spent in sheltered workshops and their leisure hours spent in the living rooms of their group homes.


Living independently in your own condo, driving your own car to and from work, and taking up Cross Fit for fun and fitness are so far from the future that those children diagnosed with autism would experience. Robin’s life is the ordinary life of an adult woman in United States in 2012. Robin’s life is the extraordinary life of a woman with autism blessed with a mother determined to ignore conventional wisdom and find a way.


Cross Fit is tough. Every lunge, every squat, every grunt allows us to see, hear, and witness the struggle. When one starts Cross Fit, make no mistake, you’re told, it will be very hard. You will be coached and prodded and you will be guided and sheer determination will get you through.


Robin, I think your lunges and sprints will be a piece of cake. Overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds has been a way of life for you. Yes, I definitely see success in your future.


HOW - CrossFit

by Francine Dersch, CrossFit Personal Trainer


It was a busy Monday evening at CrossFit Triumph. Robin had an appointment for our free introductory class. She came with her father.


Just like all CrossFit boxes, it is hot, noisy and sometimes very intimidating. Typically, you will see athletes warming up to train or athletes who have just finished training, lying in a pool of their own sweat, some swearing a bit while gasping for air. You’ll hear the coach/owner, yelling in the background: lock our backs out, squat lower, or drive your knees through.


After speaking with Robin, my boss was concerned that CrossFit might not be the best environment or training facility for her. My boss recommended Robin and her family check out some other places. Robin’s father was adamant that, at the very least, Robin should go through our free introductory class just like everyone else.


Our introductory class is designed to leave a mark. The purpose of this class is to show newcomers what they are going to experience every day, and it will never get any easier. When Robin and I were introduced, I understood why my boss had reservations. I was concerned also because nothing was specified on her questionnaire form. I immediately noticed delays in her responses to my questions. In addition, it seemed that her balance was off. I also knew that, under no circumstances, my boss would allow me to show perferential treatment to any first-time visitor. I was afraid to run Robin through the intro class. Even her big smile didn’t put me at ease!


In our introductory class, the average person usually gets through 1 to 3 rounds out of 5. Half of our first timers feel sick afterwards, one-quarter actually do get sick, and many cannot make it through the warm up without feeling like they are going to pass out. To my surprise, Robin completed 3 rounds. Robin’s performance touched me because she had tried so hard.


I talk to Robin’s parents. I wanted to train her myself on a one-on-one basis. I had to explain to them why Robin could not be placed in our regular fundamental class at this point. This was extremely difficult for me to do because I did not want to insult them in anyway. They understood and agreed Robin needed a personal trainer. I told them it was obvious to me that Robin could do the work but she would need individualized time and attention. At CrossFit Triumph we have an extensive fundamentals program. No one gets integrated into regular classes until they can perform all 9 basic movements plus, snatch, clean and jerk efficiently.


Ann, Robin’s mother, explained to me that Robin had the most severe form of autism and I began to connect the dots. All I new about autism, at that point, was nothing. Ann gave me a book that she had written about Robin, Autism Believe in the Future, from Infancy to Independence. The book is about Robin’s autism journey. It gave me the insight I needed to teach Robin in a manner she could understand and relate to.


Robin and I, with the support of her parents, doctors and therapist, started her training about 12 weeks ago. The progress Robin has made, in such a short amount of time, has enlightened me.


So let’s start with the things Robin is great at. First of all, she listens very well. In order for Robin to process new information she has to concentrate harder than you or I do, obviously something she’s learned well. She tunes everything out around her and focuses only on her goal for that very moment. So the noise of others slamming barbells on the floor and loud aggressive music doesn’t affect her training. This is a plus!!!


Also, it appears Robin doesn’t see limitations in herself, like you and I do. She has never once said to me, “I can’t.” This seems to be everybody’s favorite phrase, I can’t: I’m not strong enough, I can’t because I have flexibility issues, I can’t because my knees hurt. Robin never complains. She has never said it’s too hot, I’m too sore, or I’m too tired today.


Robin’s cardio output is great. For someone who has never trained before, she can run an 8 minute mile. That is phenomenal! She also is a strong swimmer (Special Olympics). I admire these athletic strengths in her. What I began to notice, was that Robin does struggle with the neurological domains of exercise and not so much the physical ones. The 4 physical domains are endurance, stamina, strength and flexibility. For example, running builds her endurance and stamina, and squatting helps build her strength and flexibility. She excels in her cardio and has shown good body awareness.


As part of Robin’s autism, she has intellectual, language, behavior and visual challenges. In vision, she has no depth perception or peripheral vision, and she only sees out of one eye at a time. This explains, in part, why Robin struggles with the neurological domains; coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.


When Robin started, she was hesitated to step up on a box. Robin could not jump rope or do walking lunges. Today, we have Robin jumping on and off boxes, consecutively linking her jump ropes, and lunging without losing her balance.


Robin’s progress has surprised me. We will continue to keep you posted on how she is overcoming obstacles and how she is moving forward. I am excited for her. Stay tuned.


WHY - CrossFit

by Ann Millan, Robin's mother


As an extremely active child with classic autism (behavior, language, intellectual, visual), Robin loved to run. This has always been a motivator for my guidance in her life! She always seemed to need the freedom and fresh air that outdoor activities gave her.


My grandson is an avid CrossFit athlete. His mother, Pam, Robin’s sister, suggested Robin might like CrossFit training. (Pam is an Occupational Therapist.) Pam showed Robin websites and talked about the challenges of CrossFit. They even found a local CrossFit in our area. Robin and I talked about it, and CrossFit was appropriately put on the ‘back burner’ in my mind . . . only to be mentioned in occasional conversation.


Robin’s hours were cut for the summer at her cashier job. Not one to pass up an opportunity or challenge for Robin, I called CrossFit and scheduled a free introductory one-hour training. Admittedly, Robin was reluctant and not sure this was something she really wanted to do. As her advocate, I said, “Just try it once, and see if you like it.”


Seeing Robin, the owner of the CrossFit facility was very reluctant when he saw Robin; however, he did assign her a trainer for the one-hour free work-out session. Robin loved it. She loved the trainer. She loved the physical challenges to her body. Francine, Robin’s trainer, was amazed at her body awareness and her ability to listen and focus. When Francine says, “lift those elbows,” Robin’s elbows are up! Robin has been a fan of the TV show, “The Biggest Loser” and she was familiar and responded well to Francine’s verbal pressure to keep on keeping on!


Robin has been training with Francine for three months, three times a week for one hour. This is in a non-air conditioned box (warehouse). Dirt clings to Robin’s sweat! In addition to the workouts, Francine has Robin on the Paleo (Cave Man) diet and Robin is very serious about eating the right food. Robin wants muscles! She’s wearing sleeveless tops everywhere and bragging about her new adventure, which is all well deserved! I have become Robin’s ‘meals on wheels”. She picks her food up daily from our house. We’re both still learning the diet.


Why did I feel Robin could do CrossFit? Robin has spent years in Occupational Therapy and is still in Language Therapy today. She has been in Special Olympics swimming and volleyball for years. She needs more of a physical challenge that meets her needs. I have tried several different trainers in the past, with no successful outcomes. Robin wants to run. She wants to lift weights. She needs to use all the energy she has stored in her body in a safe and appropriate environment! She needs to sweat!


With all the other CrossFit challenges, Robin’s mental processing has become her obstacle. When she meets this challenge, she will graduate to the Fundamental Class. That is her goal!


Motivation is contagious and success builds on success. CrossFit, why not?