“Yoga disguised as pretend play!”
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email that brought tears to my eyes. Gail, a speech-language pathologist, wrote to tell me about her success with incorporating yoga and speech therapy into her integrated preschool classroom. The miracle of yoga is everywhere.
Who was involved in this collaborative yoga and speech therapy activity?
Gail is a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in an urban school in New England. She provides inclusion language therapy activities on a weekly basis to students from Pre-Kindergarten (PK) to Grade 6. Gail collaborated with the PK teacher, the instructional assistant, the physical therapist, and several physical therapy graduate students for this yoga book lesson.
The Pre-Kindergarten is an integrated classroom, including children who are developing typically and others with special needs, as well as several English language learners.
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How do you integrate yoga and speech therapy?
THE YOGA BOOK
Gail bought our Jenny’s Winter Walk yoga book because she wanted to introduce the thematic topic of a winter nature walk and integrate the learning with yoga activities.
OPENING THE YOGA BOOK LESSON
Prior to reading the winter yoga book, she asked the children guiding questions to obtain information on their background knowledge. First, she asked if any of the children had gone on a nature walk with their families or teachers, and what they had seen or heard on their adventure.
Then she asked the children if they had gone on a nature walk specifically in winter and what they had seen or heard on their walk. This led to a conversation on snow, snow on trees, snow on rocks, animals that do not hibernate in the winter (connecting to a previous lesson), and animal footprints in the snow.
READING OF THE YOGA BOOK
The speech-language pathologist led the activity focusing on story comprehension and language expansion, while the physical therapist led the yoga and gross motor activities.
Gail read the story, giving the children plenty of opportunities to make predictions and inferences. She supported story comprehension with Boardmaker picture communication symbols, to allow to maximize access to the content.
As she read the winter yoga book, she stopped on pre-selected pages to allow the physical therapist to provide verbal directions and visual demonstrations of each of the six yoga poses that had been previously selected (based on the specific gross motor needs of the two students on her caseload). Her directions were concise and developmentally appropriate, given the gross motor development of the PK children.
Yoga poses included stretching and holding poses, as well as breathing techniques. The PK teacher and the instructional assistant provided verbal prompting and physical support for anyone struggling with yoga poses. Several physical therapy students from a local college were shadowing the physical therapist, and a newly hired SLP (a new graduate) observed this collaborative activity. These adults demonstrated the yoga poses, as well, and helped the children.
What were the benefits of integrating Yoga and Speech Therapy?
Gail says that the children benefited from this collaborative activity:
- Expanding language skills
- Practicing and improving gross motor skills
- Practiced mindfulness
The children enjoyed being trees (Tree Pose), climbing over logs (Warrior 2 Pose), and walking like foxes (Extended Cat Pose). At the end of the activity, the children understood that yoga is fun and practicing yoga makes bodies stronger. They have since asked to do more yoga!
Gail calls it “yoga disguised as pretend play!” and says that the activity was a hit for all children and staff. Integrating yoga as a multi-modality and kinesthetic approach makes the learning more meaningful to children. The PT graduate students gained a new perspective of physical therapy in a school setting, as well.
The collaborative team plan to implement this yoga book experience every quarter using a different season yoga book. In April, they will read and act out Rachel’s Day in the Garden, and in June, they will share Luke’s Beach Day.
Gail shared this yoga book collaborative activity with her SLP supervisor, who was thrilled to hear of a new idea to share with her team of SLPs. And if the children are saying “More, please!”, I’d say that’s good news for us all!
About our Featured Speech-Language Therapist
Gail is an ASHA-certified speech/language pathologist with a B.S. from Indiana University and an M.S. from the University of Michigan. She has over 30 years of experience, the first 5 years working with adults recovering from strokes and head injuries. She worked in a school system in upstate NY before moving to central MA in 1989. Since then, Gail has worked in an urban school system (Worcester). Her present assignment is in an elementary school, where she works with children (PK to grade 6) with communication disabilities. She is married and has two adult children.