There are many strategies used for improving behavior in children with autism and special needs; including visual aides to foster communication and understanding, sensory activities to support sensory needs and token/reward systems to increase desired behaviors and decrease undesired behaviors. These strategies, if implemented consistently can be highly effective. Teaching yoga, physical poses, breathing and visualization can also be an effective way to improve behavior of children with special needs in the home and school setting.
How does the practice of yoga improve behavior?
The physical postures (asanas) support sensory regulation, which directly affects emotional and behavioral regulation. The poses along with breathing help children develop focus, concentration and in many cases impulse control.
Breathing strategies (pranayama), support children in calming their nervous systems, releasing tension and stress in the body as well as releasing difficult or uncomfortable emotions.
Visualization strategies support children in developing meditation skills, increasing imagination, focus, concentration and even language and vocabulary skills. Visualization and guided imagery increases the relaxation response and soothes the nervous system.
A study about Yoga and Improving Behavior was recently published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. The results of the study showed improvement of behaviors in the children with autism who practiced yoga consistently over a 16 week period.
When children are calmer and have coping skills to manage difficult emotions such as anger, frustration and anxiety they are more likely to exhibit less behaviors. Implementing yoga in the home and school setting as a behavior management strategy can be tremendously effective in creating a calmer, more peaceful environment as well as calmer, more peaceful children. Why wouldn’t we want to make this a part of our children’s experience and lives?
Strategies on implementing yoga in the home and school environment in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!