Classroom Yoga Helps Kids with Autism

Kids with autism had less disruptive behavior after doing morning yoga

September 18, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) Kids with autism can have symptoms, like being irritable, that interfere with their school day. In one study, a morning yoga session in class helped with some behaviors.

Kids did yoga as part of their morning routine for 16 weeks. After, their teachers said that they had less problem behaviors during the school day.

Bringing yoga into the morning routine may be a way to empower kids with autism.

"Ask your child’s psychiatrist about yoga."

The study, led by Kristie Patten Koenig, PhD, of the Department of Occupational Therapy at New York University, asked eight different classes to be in the study.

There were six kids per class. Most of the classes were made up of kids who all had autism. Two of the classes had kids with autism and other kids.

Four classes, with a total of 24 kids, did the Get Ready to Learn classroom yoga program for 16 weeks.

The Get Ready to Learn yoga program is a 15-20 minute long DVD that is designed to help kids start their day. It goes through breathing, postures and relaxation.

In this study, an occupational therapist was in each class during the yoga video for guidance.  The teachers also participated in the program.

The other four classes, with a total of 22 kids, did their normal morning routine. They spent some time getting the classroom ready and had a brief morning group meeting to start their day.

At the beginning and end of the 16 week study period, both parents and teachers completed a standard survey about challenging behaviors. The survey asked parents and teachers to rate irritability, inappropriate speech and crying.

Compared to the kids who just did a normal morning routine, the kids who did yoga had a decrease in challenging behaviors.

The teacher ratings of the challenging behaviors were lower after the yoga program than they were before.

The authors concluded that the Get Ready to Learn yoga program is a low-cost and easy to add into the school day. Using it may help both students and teachers have a better school experience.

However, all the kids in the study scored on the lower functioning end of the autism spectrum as measured by a standard autism symptom survey.

So, the kids in this study may be in need of extra help in their school day. It is not clear whether or not the morning yoga program would be helpful for kids who are higher functioning.

This study was published in September in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. No conflicts of interest were reported.