The first week back at school can be overwhelming for any child and for children with ASD even more so. The key is preparation and priming. Priming is when you prepare a child for an activity or event before it takes place using visual supports and clear language. Teachers need to be primed too. No matter how well primed a child is, there will still be some anxiety, as they learn to self-regulate and adjust to the new classroom. Using Yoga with children with ASD and allowing for simple movement breaks can also be very helpful.
I have just finished supporting two little ones with ASD in their “first week of school” in Cairo, Egypt. It was thankfully a success and all credit goes to the two boys and their family. The key to success was using the support strategies, detailed daily planning done by the teachers and incorporating relaxation strategies throughout the day. Curling up into mice (child’s pose) and making triangles with our bodies (downward dog) featured quite often, and helped the children and their teachers.
Yoga is one of my “back to school” tools. Back in 2008, when I first moved to New York, two weeks into my first year teaching at Hunter College, I went off to have my nails done. Not atypical, the manicurist asked me one of THOSE questions. Not are you married? Do you have children? Or What do you do? But, “Do you do yoga?”. The conversation went something like this:
Manicurist: “Choose your color”
Me: “This red please”
Manicurist: “Do you do yoga?”
Me: “Sometimes, not very often really”
Manicurist: “If you don’t do yoga you are going to die”
I almost choked on my almond late as she said it. Her response was rather extreme but truth be told one of those treasured words of advice. I’m so grateful to the Nina, the manicurist from Nepal. When you live and work in city like NYC life can get stressful. Yoga just helps smooth out the wrinkles of the day. Yoga has taught me a great deal. It’s taught me how to be a better professor and it’s given me ideas to support children with ASD.
I remember leaving the manicurist back in August 2008, thinking, “Wow that was rather harsh”, but having lived in NYC for 7 years and with my somewhat hectic travel schedule she was right.
When life feels out of balance, exercising, taking time to be quiet and to be present makes the world of a difference. Welcome back to a new school year.