A yoga class is a great way to meet and connect with new people, but it can also be a great way to help a child with special needs to build up a positive self-image. If you are a teacher, these tips can help you in your yoga class for kids.
The first step in teaching any type of yoga for kids with special needs is to recognize that not every child can do it. By default, some kids are more receptive to yoga than others, but this isn’t to say that all kids with special needs can’t benefit from doing yoga. With this in mind, here are some tips to avoid making the mistake of assuming you’re teaching yoga to a kid who can do it, and instead teaching yoga for kids with special needs.
While all children are special, some need more attention and guidance than others. If you teach yoga to children with special or additional needs, these guidelines will serve as a guide.
1. Start where they are.
When you teach yoga to children with additional needs, you open your eyes, ears, heart and mind. To really see, hear, feel and understand.
Look at who is in front of you and start where they are! Not what you planned, not what you think they should be, not what society thinks they should be, or what the books say they should be.
If you start where they are, they can do almost anything. …. step by step. Sometimes lessons need to be broken down into simpler parts, and flexibility and creativity are a must! You can teach yoga to anyone if you follow these tips.
2. Some needs are physical in nature.
Blind children need more verbal instruction and touch to guide their movements, but they have amazing spatial awareness and can do absolutely anything, even pair poses and acrobatics! In the beginning you will physically help them with the postures, but after a few times they will remember how to do it themselves.
Deaf children need to be able to see you all the time so they can read your lips and imitate your movements. Here you need to talk less and show more. If you know sign language, that’s very helpful.
You can do yoga with kids in wheelchairs on a chair, or even get them out of the chair (watch their backs!) to do the poses on the floor.
Children who are bedridden can do yoga in bed. If they can’t move much, they can do breathing exercises. If it’s too hard, you can help them with guided imagery or maybe even a massage. If it’s too hard, you can just hold her hand and share your energy.
You can always find a way to do yoga!
3. Other needs – psychological or social
There are children with different types and degrees of developmental disabilities or brain damage (from birth, radiation or accidents), there is a broad spectrum of autism spectrum disorders and there are a million different syndromes, of which Down syndrome is just one.
4. You are teaching these wonderful children in two different environments.
a. A child with additional needs in a regular classroom.
In this case, an adult must be with the child at all times and work with him/her. In a typical child’s classroom, there is so much going on, and it all moves so fast, that you simply don’t have the time or energy to give your child the attention he or she needs.
Children with additional support needs need more guidance because they cannot imitate as well as other children and have a poor body awareness and sense of space.
If the class is taught during school hours, it will likely be supervised by a shadow, teacher’s aide, or assistant. If it is a day program, parents are usually present.
b. A whole group of children with extra needs.
These groups should be kept small – no more than six or eight children, and no more than two or three children per teacher.
In this case, it is advisable to reduce the lessons by a few years in order to adapt them to the cognitive and motor level. So if you teach 3-4 year olds, teach them as 2 year olds, and if you teach 5-6 year olds, teach them as 3-4 year olds.
You should also slow down the class, but have just as much fun!
Children with additional needs, such as. B. Children with autism easily experience sensory overload. So, turn down the music from the normal activities, or turn down the music and slow them down if you see them getting overwhelmed.
5. Emphasis on touch, practical help, sound and breathing.
Touch them a lot and constantly, using only firm contacts. In rare cases, children with autism do not like to be touched.
b. Practical help
Children with additional needs have poor spatial orientation and are delayed in the development of their motor skills. They need to physically put their members in their place. Be very careful, however, because joint dislocations are a common consequence of low muscle tone, which is seen in most children with syndromes.
Have them do the poses slowly so their muscles have time to respond.
Other children with additional needs have excessive muscle tension (their nerves are constantly at work), making their bodies very stiff and immobile – of course yoga and massage help!
Sing animal sounds, create sound effects, say Om or Hmmmm as often as possible. Less talking and more singing, demonstrations and actions.
Teach your child to be aware of and control their breathing, and help them breathe deeper through breathing exercises.
6. Success brings success.
Always focus on the children’s strengths. Often a weakness in one area creates a strength in another. If you start with what is easy for your child, he or she will become more confident and gradually ready for more difficult areas. Don’t start working on the problem first.
7. The above will help them achieve what they may be missing.
- Increased awareness and control of the body
- Connection to others and the environment – they naturally retreat into their own bubble.
- Self-confidence and improved self-esteem
Children with special or additional needs are just like any other child: they just want to be happy and have fun! So please don’t come to class haughty or condescending. Come play, laugh and make them feel special!
Do research – if you know you are having a child with a particular syndrome, do research on the adjustments you will need to make in your attitude, pace of activities, communication, etc.
Of course, when you meet your child, put all your doubts aside and start where they are, armed with the knowledge that will help them get where they want to go!
Photo credits: Yoga for children – Rainbow
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