Yoga as an Effective Treatment for Children with Autism

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Yoga in modernity is manifested in many forms and has attained a large popular following among those seeking a spiritual or physical respite from hectic and demanding lifestyles. It is most typically known to be a series of poses and muscle control accompanied by breathing exercises. And this is true.

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However, the modern iteration of yoga is a tradition rooted in millennia old Buddhist practices (Mathews et al.). Only after such a duration of practice and record of successful outcomes for a panoply of physical and mental ailments, has it become an evidence-based, effective treatment for Autsim Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that is frequently looked toward to be incorporated by parents, ESE teachers, and therapists (Radhakrishna et al.). ASD is of unknown origin and is without cure, therefore many traditional and non-traditional treatments are used as approaches to mitigate the stereotypical symptoms. Yoga happens to be one that is increasing in popularity and its origin and purpose in self-awareness and self-knowledge reveal why.

The word yoga means to link with the divine and it is the method through which ancient yogis connected with God. Yoga has a mixture of roots primarily established in India and used throughout Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. At the earliest point in its history, yoga was also known as the path of liberation and was taught by learned instructors to pupils in the forest of Vedic India. During the sixth century BCE, a particular student sought the teachings of yoga. This student came to be known as the Buddha (Mathews et al.). The Buddha then practiced yoga and instilled it as a tenet of Buddhism after his enlightenment, along with additional practices that he himself designed, such as mindfulness, and the other principles as summarized in the Noble Eightfold Path (Rahula).
It should be noted that according to Hanna et.al, Yoga and Buddhism are both characterized by their methods and means for attaining intuitive knowledge through the application of consciousness, leading beyond language and beyond subject or object distinctions. This notion of yoga only partly refers to the currently popular practice of assuming various physical postures, for example, as included in hatha yoga. However, it still involves specific mental practices designed to increase and enhance consciousness and awareness. This increase of mental and physical practices is particularly suited for children with ASD, whose stereotypical symptoms can benefit from becoming more aware of their physical and emotional selves. These practices indeed work to counter this very challenging symptom of ASD, which is the lack of self-regulation.

ASD is a neurological disorder that hinders social communication and behavior regulation. It can be diagnosed at any age, however, it is usually manifested and diagnosed at approximately two years of age. Some stereotypical symptoms include lack of communication skills including complete lack of verbalization in some cases, inability to regulate their own emotions, gross body motor habits such as bouncing or arm flapping, intended to self regulate when the child has not learned appropriate techniques (“NIMH ?» Autism Spectrum Disorder”). Crucially, recent research claims that he does not necessarily direct, primary cognitive issues that cause autistic children to be deficient. However, it is a lack of early social interaction which prevents children from having as many opportunities to socialize and communicate as possible that secondarily causes their stereotypical symptoms, which is one main reason yoga at early intervention may be so effective (Loftin et al.)

Based on the typical symptoms of autism it is a natural conclusion that the benefits of yoga which benefit the general population and typically developing humans would also served as a benefit for autistic children. There are a number of ways in which yoga may help. First he can provide social interaction opportunities in order to grow social communication skills next it can provide self regulation of gross motor movement through controlling of muscles third Ifff can provide emotional regulation threw common mental and respiratory exercises. As follows, much research exists to link yoga to the various clusters of symptoms of ASD. A good summary of the benefits of yoga and the various domains of improvement can be seen in the article, 6 Benefits of Yoga for Children with Autism. In it, Shawnee Hardy names Increased Social-Communication Skills, Awareness and Expression of Emotions, Reduced Anxiety, Reduction in Challenging Behaviors, Increased Body Awareness, and Positive Sense of Self. As follows, much research exists to link yoga to the various clusters of symptoms of ASD.
In an article entitled, Social interaction and repetitive motor behaviors, repetitive motor behavior among students with ASD, including body rocking and hand flapping, is addressed. These stereotypes are visible among children with autism as a strategy for self-maintenance. The study showed that after group therapy and structured group play, these body motor stereotypes decreased. Unfortunately, only three students with autism participated in this study. They were established as identified with autism buy school system personnel. Again, the social interaction monitored included play with typically developing peers. The amount of social interaction experience by these students during their recess time correlated directly with a decrease in their repetitive body motor behaviors. Therefore social interaction per se, along with social interaction with typically developing peers can provide students with autism alternative ways to self-monitor. This will, of course, carryover into structured yoga practice (Loftin et al.). This leads to even more specific studies wherein yoga has shown to be effective.

As a continuation of the social implications of specific yoga practice with youth with ASD, the article, Effects of multimodal mandala yoga on social and emotional skills for youth with autism spectrum disorder: An exploratory study, analyzed how a multimodal Mandala yoga would effect youth with ASD. In the study, five students went to hour long yoga sessions, two times per week. Multimodal Mandala yoga included 26 circular partner/group poses, color and tracing sheets, rhythmic chanting, yoga cards, and games (Litchke et al.). The students were rated on mood and emotional scales both before and after the eight sessions and both rating scales showed improved social and mood measurements. The investigation finished up by establishing that a Mandala yoga program can encourage social and emotional development and advancement for male youth with ASD. It might likewise affect their family, network, and scholarly commitment. It also recommended further studies (Litchke et al.).

Since social interaction is so important regarding quality of life for students with ASD, many studies seek to improve social interactions and social communication. Yet another article provides evidence of the high quality improvement yielded buy yoga regularly being practiced with students with ASD. In this study, six students with ASD participated in yoga along with their typical treatment and another six served as a control group exclusively doing sololy their typical treatment without the yoga. Assessments were taken on nine targeted behaviors before, during, and after the yoga therapy. The conclusion indicated that among the yoga group, social skills, and social communicative behaviors were improved, therefore improving quality of life. This article also makes mention that no single method of complementary and alternative medicine has proven as effective as yoga. Parents are eager to try it because it is effective and provides no negative side effects. Finally, the article discusses yoga’s concentration on physiological and psychological processes, respiratory manipulation, postures and cognitive control, and how yoga practice throughout a lifetime will assist children with ASD (Radhakrishna et al.).

The final study with yet more evidence that the thousand-year-old practice is improving the lives of even the most special among us, discusses the effect of a yoga training program on the severity of autism in children with high functioning autism. This study contains 29 children ages 7 to 15. Each child was randomly assigned to the control group or to the yoga group. At the beginning and end of the program the results of the autism evaluation checklist showed significant differences between the two groups, with regards to all scores on a checklist. This is yet another study that shows positive outcomes of yoga as practice in high functioning students with autism. The conclusion of the study sums it up well. Yoga employs structured, predictable patterns and environments which happen to be essential tools for children with autism. In classrooms for children with autism, these tenets of modeled discipline, structured familiarity, and the all important and social self-regulation. It also mentions a sense of self-awareness; an awareness of the body muscles which assists children with autism in controlling their physical tendencies to move rapidly and repetitively. Student paying attention to their breathing and their emotional regulation also occurs through yoga and is beneficial for children with ASD (Sotoodeh et al.).

Study after study shows evidence that this method is obviously successful. Not only does it improve the social interaction and language, it is a good way to help students with ASD become altogether more adjusted. Another excellent facet of yoga is that it works multiple skills at once. As mentioned before, not only is this a language improvement strategy but it also improve social skills, organization, patience, self-maintenance and more. When applied to activities with manual dexterity, structured yoga can also improve motor skills. Students with ASD practicing yoga is a naturally following addendum to the notion of society at large performing yoga and passing that success along to their neural atypical counterparts.

Works Cited

  1. “NIMH ?» Autism Spectrum Disorder”. Nimh.Nih.Gov, 2018, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml. Accessed 3 Nov 2018.
  2. HANNA, FRED J. et al. “Recovering The Original Phenomenological Research Method: An Exploration Of Husserl, Yoga, Buddhism, And New Frontiers In Humanistic Counseling”. The Journal Of Humanistic Counseling, vol 56, no. 2, 2017, pp. 144-162. Wiley, doi:10.1002/johc.12049.
  3. Hardy, Shawnee. “6 Benefits Of Yoga For Children With Autism – Autism Parenting Magazine”. Autism Parenting Magazine, 2018, https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/creating-inner-peace-the-benefits-of-yoga-for-children-with-autism-spectrum-disorder/. Accessed 3 Nov 2018.
  4. Litchke, Lyn et al. “Effects Of Multimodal Mandala Yoga On Social And Emotional Skills For Youth With Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Exploratory Study”. Doaj.Org, 2018, https://doaj.org/article/228f980884df43b88044a9428a526d03. Accessed 3 Nov 2018.
  5. Loftin, Rachel L. et al. “Social Interaction And Repetitive Motor Behaviors”. Journal Of Autism And Developmental Disorders, vol 38, no. 6, 2007, pp. 1124-1135.
  6. Springer Nature, doi:10.1007/s10803-007-0499-5.
  7. Mathews, Bejoy et al. “History Of Yoga”. Yoga Basics, 2018, https://www.yogabasics.com/learn/history-of-yoga/. Accessed 3 Nov 2018.
  8. Radhakrishna, S et al. “Integrated Approach To Yoga Therapy And Autism Spectrum Disorders”. Journal Of Ayurveda And Integrative Medicine, vol 1, no. 2, 2010, p. 120. Elsevier BV, doi:10.4103/0975-9476.65089.
  9. Rahula, Walpola. What The Buddha Taught /Walpola Sri Rahula. Fraser, 1982.
  10. Sotoodeh, Mohammad Saber et al. “Effectiveness Of Yoga Training Program On The Severity Of Autism”. Complementary Therapies In Clinical Practice, vol 28, 2017, pp. 47-53. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2017.05.001.

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