The Benefits of Yoga for Children with Autism

A young child participates in a special yoga class designed for children with autism and special needs.
(photo: David R. Jennings/ Daily Camera)

Many children on the autism spectrum have seen incredible benefits from participating in various physical activities, such as swimming, horseback riding, and running. Recently, the impact of yoga has been proven to be incredibly effective in improving the behavior and focus of many children with autism disorders. Although music and art therapy are the primary treatments used for children with autism, physical activities such as yoga are becoming increasingly popular.

Pop.Earth, a New York nonprofit, offers free or low-cost services for children on the autism spectrum. Founded by Debbie Stone, the mother of a son with autism, Pop.Earth offers multiple treatments in one location, with programs that are either low-cost, or free. One of the offers is a once-a-week yoga class for children with autism or special needs.

Chris Capitelli, the instructor of the yoga classes, incorporates aromatherapy and craniosacral therapy into the session. He also utilizes visualizations, stories, and flip-books to help engage the children into the class. Capitelli states, “Even within the class, there is a holistic approach with different components.”

These classes have shown to help children control their energy, as well as connect with others. The session allows for children to gain a better focus, calm their nerves and lessen feelings of anxiety, as well as improve body awareness. Debbie Stone found that yoga and breathwork, in combination with craniosacral therapy and proper nutrition, alleviated her son’s sudden rocking, and gave him a sense of discipline to control his movements and stay in one place. Furthermore, studies have shown that physical activities, such as yoga, have shown to improve communication, increase eye contact, and initiate feelings of calmness.

Some physical activities, such as contact sports, can expose autistic children to injury. However, yoga provides an opportunity to participate in a calm physical activity without the risks that other activities may have. By using slow movements, along with repetition, children can build a better sense of balance and improve their control. Furthermore, parents state that they have noticed an improvement in their child’s mental capabilities, as well as their spirit.

Pop.Earth plans to expand to multiple branches across the nation. With autism diagnoses for children in the United States reaching the high rate of 1 in 68, it is essential for programs such as these to be implemented, as they give children opportunities to improve various skills, and grow in multiple aspects.

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