Meet Sammy - how to teach yoga to children with autism | Kids Yoga Stories

Yoga for Children with Autism: Meet Sammy

Do you provide yoga therapy for children with autism? Today, I would love to share the story of an extraordinary teacher, Mary, who teaches yoga to children with autism. By sharing her experiences, challenges, and ideas, we hope that you’ll find inspiration for your work, as well. Feel free to share your story in the comments below—I’m sure Mary would love to hear from you, too. We are all in this yoga journey together!

In Sammy’s World: Yoga for Children with Autism

If you have met one child with Autism, you have truly met just one child with Autism. Shop Yoga Books for Kids | Kids Yoga StoriesI have heard this phrase repeatedly and discovered myself first-hand how true this statement is.

I have been working with a wonderful twelve-year-old boy named Sammy. He is at the lower end of the spectrum, aged twelve with an overall functioning of a five- or six-year-old. He exhibits several of the self-stimulating behaviors common in Autistic children—making loud and sometimes strange noises, flapping, and jumping. Sammy also had overwhelming need to be “scratched” and “tickled.” This was a sensory challenge which he demanded repeatedly during our yoga sessions.

Meet Sammy - yoga for children with autism | Kids Yoga StoriesTeaching yoga to children with autism – Sammy in Cobbler’s Pose

All my plans for our first yoga session together went out the window right from the start. Sammy did not have the attention span for books, flashcards, or even sitting on his yoga mat. His fine and gross motor skills were poor, as was his muscle tone. I could plan all I wanted, but it was Sammy who set the pace and the tone of our yoga sessions.

I discovered Sammy loved traditional children’s songs, in particular songs from Barney (the purple dinosaur). Coincidentally, I love to sing—I’m not very good, according to some—but I began incorporating songs into our sessions regardless. Sammy became much more focused and engaged, often going off into a fit of giggles! We practiced holding a yoga posture for the length of the entire verse of a song, and it worked wonderfully!

Some of our favorites include:

Warrior 3 Pose for Kids | Kids Yoga Stories

Airplane Pose

“Flying in an Airplane” from Barney

Bridge Pose for Kids | Kids Yoga Stories

Bridge Pose

“London Bridge is Falling Down”

Squat Pose for Kids | Kids Yoga Stories

Frog Pose

“Two Little Speckled Frogs”

Some sessions with Sammy are right on, and other times, he’s a little out of sorts, but aren’t we all at one point or another?

Do you teach yoga to children with autism? We’d love to hear your story, too!

About the Author

Mary Liberale - yoga teacher of children with autism

 

Mary Liberale is a Children’s Yoga Instructor who specializes with working with children with special needs. To share your story, email Mary directly at mary.liberale at gmail dot com or find her on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

Other Yoga Therapy Links

Yoga and Speech Therapy | Kids Yoga StoriesYoga and Speech Therapy

Therapeutic Benefits of Yoga | Kids Yoga StoriesTherapeutic Benefits of Yoga for Kids

Yoga and Physical Therapy for Kids (build strength and flexibility with these 7 yoga games for kids) | Kids Yoga StoriesYoga and Physical Therapy

Yoga for Children with Autism and Special Needs | Kids Yoga StoriesYoga for Children with Autism

How to Teach Mindfulness and Yoga Practices to Children with Hearing Loss | Kids Yoga StoriesYoga for Children with Hearing Loss

Other Yoga for Autism Links

Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism and Special Needs (Amazon affiliate link) book by Louise Goldberg

Asanas for Autism and Special Needs (Amazon affiliate link) book by Shawnee Thornton Hardy

Yoga for Children with ADHD, Autism, and those who are Differently-Abled Teacher Training, Radiant Child Yoga

Yoga Generates Huge Benefits for Children with Autism, Yoga International

6 Benefits of Yoga for Children with Autism, Autism Parenting Magazine

7 Benefits of Yoga for Kids with Autism, MindBodyGreen

AutismSpeaks.org yoga resources

 

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3 Responses to Yoga for Children with Autism: Meet Sammy

  1. Tracey Maclay June 22, 2017 at 4:49 am #

    Yes I teach yoga to children on the autism spectrum and yes they are all diffferent. It takes a while to tap into the child’s interests and ways of learning, but I find visuals are good and games where they have to ‘freeze’ in a pose work well, along with short audio stories for savasana.

  2. Anastasia Katsimbardis June 25, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    hello! I was invited to teach the students of the autism unit at a local school and while I was at first a little nervous as to what to expect, those feelings soon dissipated into feelings of wonder, joy, immense gratitude and fulfillment. The 2 classes are split into a junior and senior stream so I teach ages 6-13 and the differences between each child and each age group is extraordinary, though surprisingly not overly challenging! These kids are amazing, I love teaching them as they give so much back to me week after week and the improvement and memory retention of some of them is great to work with – after only 3 sessions they were the ones asking me if we were doing this particular warmup, or asking what adventure story we were going on today (and if I ‘forgot’, they would make sure we packed our bags and loved making ‘yoga’ sandwiches before our adventure!)
    I have found that working with engaging stories is the best – especially stories with animals as they love to act them out. Also, they loved doing affirmations with poses, and the superhero story was great fun.
    And they too loved the singing or chanting that we did – they loved doing “Happy Om” chant (while remembering which hand to knee sequence we were doing and crossing the midline always got laughs), as well as “I am Happy, I am Good”.
    But what really took me by surprise is how much they asked for relaxation time, and how much they LOVED the restorative session I did with them one week. From that class on I always made sure to add in 3-5 restorative poses at the end of the yoga story or class theme, right before relaxation time. Amazing how quickly their energy levels, bodies and minds responded to Extended Puppy, Thread the Needle (Parsva Balasana), Reclining Bound Angle, Reclined Spinal Twist, and Legs up the Wall poses. Some of them would even stay in Reclining Bound Angle for relaxation (which they did incredibly well almost every class).
    It really was about giving them creative license to use their imaginations, join in when they wanted to, sit out or lie in relaxation or childs pose when they felt, asking them for input throughout the class, and clueing into each of their own interests so you can keep them engaged by asking them to show you their “ninja turtle” or “transformers” pose for example when you see them drifting off…
    A beautiful bunch of kids that I can’t wait to teach again after the summer!

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