Yoga for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Hosh Kids’ model is based on special education principles. Our praise, self-esteem, and motivation model is dedicated to children who struggle everyday in the classroom. It can particularly hard to understand a child on the autism spectrum.
Autism is characterized as a developmental disorder that typically appears during the first three years of life that affects the development and function of the brain. Individuals with autism typically display delayed or abnormal development with relation to language and social skills. It is a spectrum disorder, which means that while individuals may share common symptoms but express them in varying degrees (American Psychological Association 2010). For example, some children may display high functioning verbal skills, but low functioning in processing social cues or sensory information from the environment.
In a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was reported that the prevalence of children being diagnosed with disorders on the autism spectrum has increased to 1 in 110 births, and almost 1 in 70 male births in the United States (Centers for Disease Control 2006). With autism spectrum disorders becoming increasingly more common, it is more crucial than ever to find non-invasive ways to support these children so that they can learn the skills to function successfully and independently in the adult world.
Yoga is a powerful tool that can teach children how to “connect to their bodies, tap into their own personal strength, better deal with life’s challenges, and build connections with the outside world” (Ehleringer 2010). Although there are no quantitative studies on the topic of yoga and autism spectrum disorders, there are many clinical reports on the positive results of yoga, and it is considered a complementary form of therapy along with traditional therapies, like occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapies. In contrast to other therapies, yoga helps children with autism spectrum disorders calm themselves, rather than relying on someone else to provide this comfort for them (Behar 2006). This is essential in teaching these children the skills necessary to live independently.
A new integrative therapy, Integrated Movement Therapy TM is “an individual and group therapy approach that combines speech-language pathology, behavioral and mental health counseling, and yoga” taught by master-degreed therapists who are also certified yoga instructors. It has been successfully implemented in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, Pervasive Developmental Delay (PDD), Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID), dyspraxia, and other specific motor-based disorders, but has produced especially consistent and remarkable results in children with autism spectrum disorders (Kenny 2002). It is built on six core pillars: structure and continuity, social interaction, language stimulation, self-calming, physical stimulation, and direct self-esteem building, which are some of the areas where children with autism spectrum disorders may struggle (Arnold 2001; Slède 2001). Hosh Kids works hard to help teachers understand children on the spectrum and in special education by effectively teaching children with tools and skills that work for every child.