Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism Found Helpful

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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Research suggests that autistic children are often withdrawn and relate better to objects instead of people.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.

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Read: Sensory Integration Swings May Cause Injury

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.

Read: New Therapies for Children with Autism

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.

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Comments

I used to make my daughter, who has SPD, do Yoga and breathing from the age of two not understanding why it helped, but it did help calm her down! If you have a child with ADHD or ASD, take a look at http://brainbalancecenters.com . They combine exercises that are targeted to your child's needs and learning programs, and parents have been really pleased with the results!
I am doing doctorate research on yoga and how it impacts children with autism. I am looking for previous research. If anyone knows of any resources for studies done please let me know. Thanks.
Hi Jeanne, I just completed a research study with two other ot students evaluating the effects of yoga on children with autism spectrum disorders’ level of engagement in the classroom. We are presently preparing the study for submission to the journal of physical and occupational therapy in pediatrics. Perhaps we can send you a pre-journal publication copy if you're interested.
Hi Christina, I teach yoga to children with autism and would be really interested to see your submission. would it be possible ? Many thanks Trea,
Hi, I'll be teaching yoga to autistic children this summer and would greatly appreciate if you would all send me copies of your publications. Thank you!!
Hi, I own a sensory play gym for children with special needs. I would love a copy of your research. I teach yoga to the children and see the benefits all the time!! I woul dlove to have the hard facts. Thanks Karen
Hi, I own a sensory play gym for children with special needs. I would love a copy of your research. I teach yoga to the children and see the benefits all the time!! I woul dlove to have the hard facts. Thanks Karen
HI Christina I'm an OT working with autistic kids. I would love to have your research to support the recommandations I often make to school to use Yoga with their special kids. Thank you
Hi Christina, I was wondering if I could get a copy of research study. I am interested in seeing the results. Thanks in advance!
I'm a third year OT student seeking research on the effects of yoga on children with ASD, may I have a copy of your publication?