For years, people have studied the benefits of yoga for both children and adults. It seems that there are countless ways that yoga improves both emotional, mental, and physical health, so it is no surprise that yoga has become increasingly popular. As we’ve continued to learn about the benefits of this practice, we’ve also found that yoga can be beneficial in applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder.
As with any therapeutic method, not everything works for everyone 100 percent of the time, but yoga can be a great tool for children on the spectrum or who experience a sensory processing disorder. Yoga can help ABA therapists achieve the goal of helping children build positive behaviors.
Some of the ways yoga can be used for children with autism spectrum disorder:
Self-regulation: Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty regulating their behaviors and emotions. One of the biggest focus areas of yoga is your breath. The structured breath created in yoga, such as an ujjayi breath, can then be generalized to other situations for the child (e.g. they can use deep breathing to self-regulate and self-soothe during a stressful situation).
Help “fight or flight” response: Children on the spectrum often experience difficulties with regulating this response to stress. Negative responses to different sensory experiences can also negatively impact the “fight or flight” response of children, which can lead to issues with anxiety, digestion, and heart rate. Yoga can help to regulate the “fight or flight” response in children, which also helps to reverse those physical responses to stress.
Motor skills: It is common for children with ASD to experience issues with motor planning. Yoga helps children to develop their sense of balance, coordination, and stability. Yoga can also help to gain spatial awareness and help children become more comfortable with their body.
Sensory: Sensory processing issues frequently occur in children on the autism spectrum. Yoga provides a calming sensory experience for children on the spectrum, as the lighting is typically low, voices are low, talking is minimal, and they are able to move on the privacy of their own mat (with little to no physical contact with other individuals). If a child is becoming overstimulated during an ABA therapy session or school, yoga could be a helpful tool to help the child manage their sensory integration.
Structure: Yoga classes can provide needed structure for children. Repeating poses or sequences during the session can be calming for children with ASD. In order for this to be successful, it may be helpful to structure sessions in the same order, same time, etc.
Are you interested in learning more about yoga in ABA therapy?
Contact us or call (773) 630-4400 to learn more about the range of services we provide for children who are on the autism spectrum at Chicago ABA Therapy, including applied behavior analysis therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.