Many children with an autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit, learning disability, and/or other developmental delay struggle with low muscle tone, poor balance and coordination, as well sensory issues.
Strength and balance: The yoga poses improve strength and tone in the large muscles of the body/. They can help improve balance by helping the child become aware of the placement of the legs and feet in relation to the rest of the body. The increased strength and coordination will make it easier for the child to join peers in activities like riding a bike or rollerblading and decrease teasing for not fitting in. These increases in muscle tone extend to the hand and fingers which contribute to fine motor skills such as cutting and handwriting. The resulting improvements in strength and balance may, also, improve coordination.
Sensory: Yoga may address and decrease hypersentivities because it soothes the nervous system. The flowing movements of the poses allow energy to be released from the body. As the child is soothed the anxiety will lessen. By practicing yoga, the overburdened sensory system becomes calmed and quieted. The system of poses offer an on-competitive outlet for the release of pent up energy. Yoga can provide the child with a respite from the usual experience of a sensory overloaded body.
Social learning: The practice of yoga can help the child feel more at peace with his or her body. Once the child is calmer and more focused, she can better concentrate on social skills.
“In my 14 years as a speech therapist and eight years as a practicing Certified Yoga Teacher, I have found yoga to be the most effective form of therapy for children with Asperger Syndrome. As a result of using yoga with children with Asperger Syndrome, I have found that they display increasing overall attention, and greater awareness of their environment as well as increasing overall socialization with other children” Judy E. Stasek, MS, CCC-SLP, Certified Yoga Teacher
Betts, Dion E. and Betts, Stacey W. Yoga for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders A Step-by-step Guide for Parents and Caregivers, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Philadelphia, 1963.