Physical therapy has long been known to one of the array of treatment options to be hugely beneficial for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). However Yoga Therapy has proven to yield amazing results for children with Autism even outside the bounds of physical therapy.
A combination of poses, breathing and deep relaxation can not only aid the development of body awareness, motor coordination and overall health but can also help promote social interaction, sensory integration and provide self-calming techniques.
Children with autism often suffer from a highly sensitive nervous system and are easily over stimulated. Yoga’s natural setting of dim lights, soft music, smooth mats, and quiet voices creates a comforting environment largely protected from unknown or aggressive stimuli in which calming down becomes enjoyable.
Yoga is orderly and consistent. Ideally, the class will be scheduled at the same time and same day of the week, with the students’ mats in the same layout, in the same room, with the same instructors. These all work to impart a sense of trust and steadiness.
A program in Seattle called Integrated Movement Therapy, which combines touch and movement with verbal exercises, has been shown to help autistic children improve communication, sociability, and problem solving.
Karen Mahoney, the director of an autistic program at Lincoln School in Evanston, found the integration of Yoga Therapy to be hugely beneficial for the students. “Because yoga was not gym class, or art class, or music class, the students had no preconceived ideas of how things should be. They seemed to go with the flow, and the calming effect has been great!”
Tanya Sugarman who led the Yoga classes said “I was hoping to find a way to connect with the students in this class through yoga. I wanted them to be able to follow instructions, to learn the parts of their bodies, to work alongside their classmates and to enjoy moving their bodies.” Sugarman has been overwhelmed with the success of the program “The response of my students was amazing. They learned so much more than the expectations I had set for them.”
Mahoney was equally impressed with the advances the students made. “Each day, students arrive upset by something and yoga offered a structured, focused activity that didn’t have a judgmental right/wrong component. The students always viewed themselves as successful and found their favorite positions.”
You can investigate Yoga Therapy classes in your area or alternatively there is a fully-illustrated book for parents and caregivers which gives a step by step guide for using yoga to benefit children with ASDs.