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Yoga May Improve Behavior In Kids With Autism

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A simple, school-based yoga program can do wonders for kids with autism, researchers say, yielding gains in both behavior and socialization.

In a study comparing children with autism who did yoga each day at school compared to kids who followed a typical routine instead, those who participated in the stretching exercises exhibited significantly less aggressive behavior, social withdrawal and hyperactivity.

The findings published this month in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy offer tremendous promise for the growing population of children with the developmental disorder, researchers say.

The study focused on children with autism at a public school in the Bronx who participated in a yoga program called “Get Ready to Learn.” The 17-minute daily regimen includes deep breathing, yoga poses, tensing and relaxing muscles and finally singing, all led by the classroom teacher.

Researchers monitored the students for 16 weeks as they participated in the program and compared their experiences to those of a control group who did not do yoga.

“We found that teachers’ ratings of students who participated in the daily yoga routine showed improved behavior compared with teachers’ ratings of students who did not,” said Kristie Koenig, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at New York University who led the study. “Our research indicates that a manualized systemic yoga program, implemented on a daily basis, can be brought to public school classrooms as an option for improving classroom behavior.”

The yoga program Koenig and her colleagues studied is already being implemented with kids with disabilities in over 500 classrooms in New York. What’s more, teachers are using the routine in general education classrooms in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont, researchers said.

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Comments (7 Responses)

  1. KA101 says:

    I’ve seen news articles about this before, though scholarly coverage certainly doesn’t hurt the theory.

    Odd that the headline & study focuses on improving behavior, as opposed to (say) reducing tension, decreasing anxiety, increasing comfort levels, or otherwise having positive effects. Auties that feel better are less likely to melt down or otherwise express negatively!

  2. bigfatangus says:

    Are you sure it isn’t the singing that’s making the difference?

  3. KA101 says:

    Singing certainly helps in other contexts (see: religious services) so it’s possible it could be a factor. The news coverage I’d seen of other yoga-implementations was stress-reducing but didn’t involve singing, IIRC, so the two may combine to greater effect.

  4. Tacitus says:

    Great, maybe some day we can get a study focused on improving life for autistics, instead of improving autistics for other people.

  5. Shelli Welch says:

    I am a yoga instructor in Lenoir, NC who leads a weekly yoga class for special needs in the Caldwell County School System. I also teach yoga to developmentally disabled adults at a local day program. Yoga has been instrumental in decreasing negative behaviors, increasing self confidence, self awareness and improving social skills. I am open to questions for anyone that is interested in learning more about yoga’s benefits for special needs. welchshelli33@gmail.com

  6. Jeremy says:

    Perhaps improving behavior will increase instructional time to make those improvements possible naysayers. Behaviors are learned. Children with autism are no different in that they have to learn appropriate behaviors. I find it ironic that people are posting about “autistic kids,” but since when did their disability define them? People have autism; they are not autistic.

  7. Priti Tiwari says:

    this is great effort and make encourage as a therapist, educator, and researcher. such types of studies are motivation for us to work with positive attitude towards the children with special needs.

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