Kids with disabilities have the same needs as kids without disabilities – the need to feel confident, strong, happy, and focused, just to name a few. Over the years we have learned that there are also many wonderful benefits of yoga for children who experience physical, learning, emotional and other disabilities. There has been growing interest in yoga and the influence it may have on children’s learning and behavior. Articles have appeared in respected professional journals such as School Psychology Review, Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, Early Child Development & Care, and the International Journal of Rehabilitation & Health.
Since 2000, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of articles written by families and educators about their experiences with yoga and children with and without disabilities. These articles, which have appeared in popular magazines or journals such as The Exceptional Parent, Montessori LIFE, and American Fitness, discuss the benefits of yoga on social, emotional and academic skills, and behavior. For more information about yoga and children with disabilities, link to the resources later in this article.
We know that no two children are alike. This is important to keep in mind when we think about yoga and children with disabilities. It is best to think about the whole child (what brings a smile to her face, strengths, talents, preferences) as opposed to focusing on the disability. So if a child has been identified as visually impaired, for example, you will want to create a yoga experience for him based on who he is rather what a book or doctor may say about the characteristics of his disability. The diagnosis is just a label. The disability is one of many aspects of the child and does not define who she really is, what he is capable of achieving or how she learns best.
It is important to make sure that as a parent or caregiver, you speak first with your child’s doctor, therapist or teacher to discuss how yoga can complement the support your child may already be receiving. If your child has moderate or significant challenges, it is a good idea to find a yoga teacher who has specific experience and/or training in working with children with special needs.