Whilst much research has been done into yoga’s benefits for the adult population, less has been conducted with children and only recently are researchers really beginning to appreciate the potential benefits of yoga to children with special needs.
Nevertheless, clinical research has been conducted recently which compellingly highlights the benefits of yoga to children with special needs. Recent research suggests that yoga poses provide a present-moment focal point for children who feel overwhelmed by bodily sensations and can also provide relief (due to the element of deep pressure within the strengthening poses) from the constant over-stimulation of the nervous system often experienced by these children.
Yoga has also been shown to reduce any obsessive-compulsive symptoms and to alleviate both stress and anxiety. In one small-scale study of six children with special needs, an 82-week yoga intervention (five hour-long sessions per week) was demonstrated to promote significant changes in communication, language, play and joint attention, in addition to a reduction in anxiety. Yoga has also been found to have positive benefits for sleeping and eating difficulties, including gastrointestinal symptoms.
Early findings from a recent collaborative pilot study (conducted by IOE, UCL and Special Yoga Ltd) in July 2014 suggests that yoga can improve sensory difficulties, increase verbalisations and reduce anxiety-related behaviours in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This research has been carried out to inform a future Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT). Qualitative data from the initial pilot is rich with parental comments related to the increased sense of connection they felt to their child both during and after the sixteen-week yoga intervention, in addition to observations of increased concentration, reductions in stress and improved communication.
Furthermore, we are currently working in collaboration with Swansea University in another exciting pilot study, which is looking into the effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system in children with special needs. A number of families whose children receive one-to-one sessions at our centre have agreed to take part, which has involved their child wearing a small monitor called an ActiGraph for the duration of one week to measure their movement. Again, the results of this pilot will inform a future, larger-scale study.
Additional projects in the pipeline include Yoga4Autism, a proposed 3-5 year project involving clinical trials based at Special Yoga Ltd and University College Cork, in collaboration with Center Hospitalier Universitaire in Grenoble. A grant application is currently in progress with Project Horizon 2020.
Our extensive experience in the field of special needs and yoga assures us that yoga is an efficacious and life-changing approach for these children. We deeply appreciate, however, the need for robust research to back up our experiential understanding.”
This article is take from the Special Yoga Website, and is when I studied to help children and adults with special needs.