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Yoga for Special Children

Yoga therapy is not about perfecting a pose; its about connecting with a special child with love and acceptance. Many children with disabilities feel the pain of their parents and feel responsible for it, it is strongly recommended that all parents participate and practice yoga with their children as often as possible to build the bond of acceptance and trust. Unlike other therapies that may use toys and special equipment to stimulate a child's development, yoga therapy uses breath, movement, postures, and the child's voice to focus inwardly and develop concentration and entire body awareness. Its an opportunity to move a child into ease of being, opening the door of potential. Yoga is a lifestyle of sculpting one's body, mind, and spirit. When the children build trust, they believe in themselves and the possibilities are endless.

PROGRAMS:

  • Early learning: 3-6 yrs.
  • Special education: 8 - 11 yrs, boys; 11 - 14 yrs, girls
  • Integrated learning Group: 4 - 9 yrs
  • Pre Vocational training for girls: 13 - 19yrs
  • Physiotherapy & occupational therapy: babies - 10 yrs
  • Speech & Language Therapy: 1 -11 yrs

 

Yoga for the special child is a comprehensive program of yoga techniques designed to enhance the natural development of children with special needs. Our style of yoga is gentle, and therapeutic -- safe for babies and children with Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Microcephaly, Autism and other developmental disabilities. These methode also provide an effective treatment for children diagnosed with Attention Defecit Disorder, ADHD and Learning Disabilities.

Our Therapeutic program includes :

  • An integrated series of balanced yoga postures to increase body awareness, strength and flexibility
  • Specialized breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to improve concentration and reduce hyperactivity
  • An early intervention program to assure the healthy formative development of infants and toddlers

 

Yoga for the special child training programs offer a unique learning environment for children and their parents, special education teachers and  health care professionals.

DOWN SYNDROME AND YOGA

Down syndrome is a congenital disability with an overall incidence of one in every 700 births. The statistics for UAE needs to be established.  In USA the incidence of Down Syndrome in children born to 25 years old mothers is approximately 1 in 1200; the risk increases to approximately 1 in 350 for for 35 year olds and 1 in 120 for women older than 40 years. The chromosomal abnormality involved in most cases of Down syndrome is trisomy 21. As a result, the affected person has 47 chromosomes in all body cells, instead of the normal 46.

Persons with Down syndrome are shorter than average, with truncated limbs. Some other common characteristics of Down syndrome include an epicanthic fold of skin extending from the eyelid over the inner canthus of the eye, strabismus (crossed eyes) and (low muscle tone). Motor development is slow; and instead of walking by 12 to 14 months as most children do, children with Down Syndrome usually learn to walk between 15 to 36 months. Language and cognitive development are also significantly delayed. The majority of children with Down Syndrome are also susceptible to certain medical problems; obstructed digestive tracts and childhood lukemia.

Yoga poses help to stretch, tone and strengthen the entire body. Asanas also benefit the internal organs and help to balance and revitalize the endocrine glands. For this reason children with Down Syndrome who practice yoga stay slim and flexible, while those who do not practice yoga tend to put on weight as they age. In conjunction with yogic breathing exercises, which have a beneficial effect on the central nervous system , aasanas facilitate the development of body awareness, concentration and memory -- vital skills for any child with a developmental disability.

CEREBRAL PALSY AND YOGA

Cerebral Palsy is a disorder caused by injury to the motor areas in the brain, affecting the muscle tone and ability to control movement and posture. In most cases, the onse5t occurs during pregnancy or childbirth. In other cases,
infections such as meningitis or traumatic brain injury may result in cerebral palsy. There are three types of movement disturbances associated with cerebral palsy :

  1. Spastic cerebral palsy, where muscles are tense, contracted, and resistant to movement. This is the most common form of cerebral palsy, especially in low birth weight.
  2. Athetoid cerebral palsy, where the affected parts of the body perform involuntary writhing movements, such as turning, twisting, facial grimacing, the motor centers, not the other parts of the brain. In the past the "strange" and "unnatural" movements were diagnosed as signs of mental or emotional disturbance.
  3. Ataxic cerebral, where the main characteristic is lack of balance and co-ordination and altered depth perception, due to damage to the cerebellum. Ataxia involves difficulty in maintaining balance and swaying when standing.

 

Sometimes several areas of the brain are involved, so the description of a particular child's condition may involve several of the above terms and symptoms. Also, the severity of the disability will vary from child to child, ranging from mild awkwardness to inability to walk. Other conditions associated with cerebral palsy may include seizures, ADHD, learning disabilities vision problems and speech impairment.

The practice of yoga poses, followed by deep relaxation, can help to significantly reduce high muscle tone, which is characteristic of most children with cerebral palsy. Holding an asana gives the muscles and tendons a relaxing stretch, releasing overall stress and tightness throughout the musculature and around the joints. At the same time that asanas are relaxing to the body, they also provide just enough resistance to exercise to lower muscle tone areas of the body. In this way asanas actually improve both high and low muscle tone problems in children with cerebral palsy.

Perhaps the most important aspect of asana practice for children with cerebral palsy is its ability to stretch and realign the spine. Asanas flex and twist the spine in all directions. This scientifically designed series of stretches and counter stretches helps to create more space between the vertebrae and reduce pressure on the disks and nerves that radiate out of the spine. Reducing the pressure on these radial nerves facilitates the release of muscular tension throughout the body and enhances overall nerve function. As a result, the child is able to develop a greater range of movement and coordination, as well as greater independence.

MICROCEPHALY AND YOGA

The term Microcephaly simply means "small head" and is used when the head size is less than that of 97% to 99% of the population. In most cases, microcephaly also reflects a reduction in the size of the brain. The effects of microcephaly vary considerably, from very mild to profound developmental delays. Microcephaly may be present from birth (congenital) or it may develop in the first few years of life. Some children with microcephaly have multiple diagnoses, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, visual impairment and feeding difficulties.

Yoga poses (asanas) provide a gentle, yet effective way to stimulate blood circulation and tone the internal organs., which is vital for the those who are less physically active. Yogic breathing exercises (pranayama) increase oxygenation of the blood, which strengthens the central nervous system. When asanas and pranayama are coupled together with the practice of deep relaxation, the benefits are greatly enhanced motor and cognitve skills.. With regular yoga practice, children with microcephaly develop greater body awareness and enhanced cognitive and motor skills. The end result is an overall improvement in their quality of life.

AUTISM AND YOGA

Autism is a developmental disorder that typically appears in the first three years of life.  This disorder makes it difficult for children to communicate verbally and non verbally, to socially interact with others and to relate to the outside world.  Many autistic children, however, also exhibit remarkable abilities in the areas of art, music and math.  Autism used to be a rare disorder, occuring in about one in 1500 children.  Since the late 1980's however, the autism rate has risen sharply even in the Middle East.  Current estimates need to be done through the support of interested health related organisations.

For decades , most psychiatrists considered autism to be a psychological disorder.  It is now generally acknowledged that autism is caused by biological factors, but there is little agreement over which factors are most important, and exactly how they cause autism.  Unlike other disorders, autism is defined not by its cause, but by its symptoms, which may include purposeless, repetitive behaviors such as hand-flapping, rocking or opening and closing doors.  Language skills develop slowly or not at all, the meaning of words is often ignored and gestures are used instead of words.  Some individuals with autism may exhibit aggressive or self-injurious behavior and resistance to change in routine.  Others may seem to lack common sense, throw tantrum for no apparent reason or obsess over an idea, object or person.  Children with autism may also experience sensitivities to sights, sounds, touch, odors and flavors, and have strong reactions to them.

Although autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors, children and adults may exhibit many different combinatins of these behaviors, to any degree of severity.  Two children, both with the same diagnosis, may act very differently and have various aptitudes.

The first step in teaching Yoga to a student with autism is to establish a strong bond with the child.  To do this, we the faculty of Gems Of Yoga need to enter the world that the child lives in- to meet the child on his or her own level, so to speak.  Only then will we be able to gain the child's complete confidence.  Massage, music, dance rhymes and stories are some of the different techniques that we would like to use to connect with the child in co-operation with the other teachers.

As we and the students at the centre will gradually develop a foundation of mutual trust and friendship, then we will introduce some of the yoga poses ( aasanas) and breathing exercises ( Pranayama) that will help the autistic child out of his or her shell and into the world of social interaction.  After the student becomes familia with these introductory poses, we may progressively add more aasanas to the routine, as well as deep relaxation.  The combination of aasanas, pranayamas and deep relaxation will strengthen the child's nervous system, increase overall health and facilitate the development of body awareness and concenteration.  By establishing optimal physiological and psychological integrity, yoga therapy helps autistic children gain new motor, communication and social skills.  The end result is an overall improvement in their  quality of life.

ADHD AND YOGA

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioral disorder formally defined as a significant deficiency in age- appropriate attention, impulse control and rule- governed behavior, which manifests in early childhood.  Associated behaviors include: hyperactivity; speaking or acting before one thinks; difficulty in following instructions, poor organizational skills; restlessness; impatience; forgetfulness; low self esteem; and poor social skills.  Children with ADHD find it difficult to slow down; even when they want to; often they are so hurried that they seem clumsy and unco-ordinated.

Some experts believe that ADHD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but there is no documented proof that this is actually the case.  The incidence of ADHD varies from 3-15% for school age population, depending on the strictness of diagnosis. Sometimes referred to as ADD/WH or " minimal brain dysfunction," children with AHD generally do not perform well in school, though most of them test at average or above average intelligence.

Currently, more than four million children in USA have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.  The statistics for UAE have to be found out.  There are many factors contributing to this behavioral disorder: TV Violence; poor nutrition; prenatal drugs used by parents; sensory overload; pollution;crowding;and the breakdown of the family structure.  Yoga uses physical postures ( asanas ), breathing exercises ( Pranayamas ) and deep relaxation techniques to calm and strengthen the Central Nervous System.  It helps children and teenagers with ADHD get in touch with their bodies in a relaxed and non-competitive way.  There is also a spiritual side to Yoga that grounds its practitioners in their own silence and internal awareness - something that is becoming increasingly difficult to experience with the frenzied pace of life today.

Children with ADHD often experience learning delays due to their hyperactivity and destructibility.  We from Gems Of Yoga will first introduce pranayama and a few aasanas to these children before attempting to teach them an entire yoga routine.  This will help them to calm down enough to follow instructions.  Alternate nostril breathing will be of particular benefit to children with ADHD because of its ability to calm the mind and to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  Teaching these children proper respiration is going to be an important aspect of their yoga training.  Once the child with ADHD is able to follow instructions, we will gradually introduce more aasanas and the deep relaxation portion of the yoga routine.

LEARNING DISABILITIES AND YOGA

In UAE we need to calculate the statistics for this learning disability.  Approximately 15-20% of the U.S. population have some form of learning disability, according to figures derived from the latest research conducted under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health.  Learning disabilities impede a person's ability to store, process or recall information.  They can affect a child's ability to read, write, speak, or compute math, and often impact the student's ability to acquire socialization skills.

Yoga provides an effective therapeutic alternative for children with learning disabilities.  Yogic breathing exercises (Pranayama ) stimulate the Central Nervous System and strengthen the immune system.  In combination with yoga poses (aasanas) and deep relaxation, pranayama facilitates the development of body awareness, balance, memory and concentration.  Students with dyslexia often receive special benefit from practicing the yoga eye exercises, which strengthen the optic nerve, relax facial muscles and stimulates various centers of the brain.  These exercises improve the eye's ability to focus and enhance word recognition skills.  Eye exercises are only one example of how yoga can be adapted to minimize specific learning deficits; however, Yoga for the special Child is primarily a holistic therapy, and as such, its main objective is to enhance all area of a child's development.



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