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Autism & Exercise Research

Our Team

Our specialized team uses innovative strategies to successfully bring the benefits
of exercise to individuals with autism and other special needs.

David S. Geslak

President and Founder

As a Fitness Coordinator at a school for children with autism, Coach Dave experienced first-hand the challenges of teaching exercise. By understanding that students with autism learn differently, he developed a system that has become a breakthrough in effectively teaching exercise. Nine universities have incorporated his program into their Adapted Physical Education and Special Education Programs. As a pioneer in the field, Dave gives his insightful and inspiring presentations around the world, including, Egypt, Dubai, Barbados, Russia and Canada. Coach Dave is also a published author, writes Autism & Exercise research articles, and has a TV Show “Coach Dave” on the Autism Channel.

Coach Dave graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Health Promotion. He is a Certified Exercise Physiologist from the American College of Sports Medicine and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is a former assistant strength and conditioning coach for the University of Iowa Football Program and co-founder/President of Right Fit. He is also a member of the State of Illinois Autism Taskforce.

Ashley Palomino

Director of Programs

Ashley has been working with individuals with autism and special needs since 2009. As a paraprofessional for high school students at Lyons Township, she assisted with behavior management, data collection, IEP goals and inspired students to reach their physical, social and learning goals.

When working with one of her high school students who had autism and was overweight, Ashley was able to create a personal exercise program. Her program helped him lose weight and improved his behaviors and transitions. Since, she has made it a priority to have exercise a part of all her students lesson plans.

Ashley has a Masters Degree in Special Education and is a former Chicago Public School Teacher. For the EC, Ashley is advancing the School Program through curriculum design and pioneering the EC's Job Blending Program. Ashley also leads group and individual workouts for both children and adults.

Jessica A. Geslak

Licensed Speech Language Pathologist

Jessica began her career as a paraprofessional in the high school program at Giant Steps, a school for children with autism. This is also where she first met Coach Dave. Using what she had learned from her Bachelors Degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences, she was able to assist with speech therapy sessions.

After three years at Giant Steps she was ready to further her career and was accepted in the Masters Program for Speech and Language at St. Xavier University. She graduated in 2013 and now serves as a Licensed Speech-Language Pathologist at an elementary school in Lombard, IL.

With the EC, Jessica assists in the development of ExerciseBuddy and she has helped develop the EC presentation; Language Development through Exercise. But her toughest job, by far, is managing her now husband, Coach Dave.

The Champions

Our videos were created with the help of students with autism. Nothing is more inspiring than
being led by peers who have faced similar challenges and achieved success.


Flexing and exercising his muscles was not Anthony’s first choice but because he routinely saw his Dad exercising he was willing to give it a try.

Anthony began working out in his basement at 13 years old, ten years after being diagnosed with autism. It was a challenge to make it a part of his routine but experiencing gains in his muscular strength kept him curious for more. His love of Batman and superheroes is what kept him motivated and the occasional comic book at the end of the session from Coach Dave.

Today, 17 years old, Anthony uses his strength at his first job at Mariano’s. You can also catch him on the Coach Dave Show and at autism conferences, selling products for the EC and talking with others about the benefits of exercise.


At 18 months old, Rachel lost her ability to speak and was diagnosed with autism. Who knew that she would now be presenting across the country sharing her story.

Rachel doesn’t remember too much growing up but she will tell you that movement played an important part in her physical and cognitive development. At 14 years old, she was reluctant to exercise and when she did, would only wear her school uniform and slip-on shoes. Her dog, Fleur, was her motivator to exercise and today is still apart of her workouts.

Now, 18 years old, Rachel is dressed in exercise gear with newfound hope and optimism. She recently graduated from high school and is excited to see what the next four years can bring. If you want to learn more about Rachel you can catch her on the Coach Dave Show.


At 25 years old, Bill had difficulty catching a baseball. And having played softball for the last four summers this was unacceptable for Coach Dave.

Diagnosed with asperger syndrome and suffering from seizures, professionals and coaches may have been timid to challenge him. Well, challenge was exactly what he needed. Through exercise, Bill has not only increased his muscular strength and coordination but can now catch two balls while balancing on a stability ball! Something most high-level athletes can’t do.

Bill, a die-hard Cubs fan, is an inspiration for many adults because of his “never give up” attitude. Bill is a graduate of Elgin Community College and has been working at Meijer’s for the last four years, along with co-hosting the Coach Dave Show.