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. I 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.
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.
GET YOUR 3 POSTERS HERE
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:
1. Bridge Pose: London Bridge is falling down
How to practice Bridge Pose: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Rest your arms down alongside your body, with your palms flat on the ground. Tuck your chin into your chest and keep your spine straight. On an inhale, lift your buttocks. Hold for a few counts and then slowly curl your back down to the floor.
2. Frog (squat) Pose: Two Little Speckled Frogs
How to practice Squat Pose: Come down to a squat with your knees apart and your arms between
3. Warrior 3 Pose (airplane pose): Flying in an Airplane, from Barney
How to practice Warrior 3 pose: Stand on one leg. Extend the other leg behind you, flexing your foot. Bend your torso forward and take your arms back alongside your body. Switch sides and repeat the steps.
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 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 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
6 Benefits of Yoga for Children with Autism, Autism Parenting Magazine