Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism Found Helpful
Yoga therapy can help autistic children mainly with creating a bond between the teacher and the student, developing a foundation of mutual trust and friendship. A combination of poses, breathing and deep relaxation can help promote social interaction, provide sensory integration, increase overall health, and aid the development of body awareness and concentration.
Research suggests that autistic children are often withdrawn and relate better to objects instead of people. Many yoga poses simulate objects and animals, such as Mountain, Tree, or Down Dog, that the children may find engaging. 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.
The breathing techniques and guided visualization during yoga practice can reduce stress, teach coping techniques, and provide a sense of calm and acceptance. For those that suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, it teaches listening skills and helps the children to slow down. It can also provide a release of pent-up energy in a non-competitive, peaceful manner.
As the child progresses in the asanas and pranayamas of a yoga routine, a feeling of deep relaxation can strengthen the nervous system and increase concentration and body awareness, thus improving the symptoms of sensory integration dysfunction that often occurs in autism. These symptoms include being overly sensitive to touch, sights or sounds, getting distracted easily, or being impulsive and unable to control one’s self.
Some children with autism also experience a delay in motor skills due to low muscle tone and impaired coordination, resulting in low self esteem and lack of confidence. A regular yoga routine can teach resilience while strengthening and toning the muscles and developing balance.
Many “yoga for children” classes also include massage, music, dance, rhymes and stories which also allow teachers and parents to connect with the child. Music provokes engagement and interest and the acts of drumming, singing and movement stimulates the emotional center of the brain.
Because yoga provides a great bonding experience, classes usually involve the entire family. Don’t have a center near you that offers yoga therapy for autistic children? Pick up the book “Yoga For Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents and Caregivers” by Dion E. Betts and Stacey W. Betts. This guide provides simple and effective techniques for parents, caregivers, and even professionals.