Yoga For Special Needs

Teaching yoga for special needs can be a rewarding experience. But I have found that each class is as unique as the population you are teaching.  Here are some great tips to use as you work for any fitness class with individuals with special needs.

First of all, I knew that I needed to be aware of the class I was teaching.  One season it was filled with Special Olympics clients so I needed to do stretches and strengthening for the various sports. Another had a heavy autistic population so I knew I needed to have students do yoga games with the purpose of teaching social skills and interacting with one another. Another season it was stress relief since many of my participants suffered from anxiety and fear.   I would always start class with an introduction of the class, a brief answer and question session about each person’s week, and sometimes things we were grateful for.

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Disability Youth Overview

Inclusion is a term used quite frequently in our society.  It means that as trainers and teachers, we will have students with disabilities in our classrooms and fitness facilities, and we must learn how to meet their unique needs in daily activities and welcome them in our schools, churches, and recreation/gyms, while striving to serve the general public as well. This is a daunting task even for those people who specialize in special education. I believe that this article is essential for anyone who works with children with disabilities. This series is divided into four categories addressing those students with physical, mental, learning and emotional/behavioral disabilities. Please read each of these sections since the person you may be working with will have a variety of disabilities and perhaps a combination of multiple diagnoses.  This month we will explore physical disabilities.

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Raynaud’s Syndrome

Raynaud’s (ray-NOHZ) disease or Raynaud’s Phenomenon is a problem with blood flow. It is a condition that causes some areas of your body––such as your fingers, toes, and the tips of your nose and ears––to feel numb and cool in response to cold temperatures or stress. In most cases, this inconvenience and discomfort last only for a short time, while your body is reacting to the coldness or stress.  In Raynaud’s disease, the smaller arteries that supply blood to your skin narrow, limiting blood circulation to affected areas.   This is more prevalent in women and people living in cooler climates that are 60 degrees or colder. It also happens quite frequently as the weather suddenly turns from fall to winter and the temperature drops.

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Developing Gross and Fine Motor Skills in Early Childhood

This is a series about fine and gross motor skills in early childhood. Children of all ability levels should have both structured and unstructured experiences in motor skills. Early interventions and involvements of parent and school can develop positive experiences, which can help students develop at a normal rate. This month’s article is part one of the series and explains what motor skills are.

What are motor skills? They are the large and small movements of the body such as lifting, pushing, pulling, and carrying. In order to develop fine and gross motor skills, an individual must effectively use the mind-body connection and have spatial awareness of their surroundings.

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Resistance Training for Special Populations: Supporting Evidence

There are many conditions and diseases in which resistance training is tolerable, and in many cases, beneficial. Clients may be categorized into one of the areas which we refer to as “special populations”. There may be any number of special concerns or protocols you might have for each area. However, resistance training, in general, even at higher intensities is safe and effective for most clients who may fall into the following special populations. If you find yourself serving people in these populations, you need not fear. Thoroughly educate yourself on the subject, but you can be confident knowing that there is evidence already in existence to support what you may design for these clients.

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Gross Motor Skills for Early Childhood Development

Today is part two of the series on Motor Skills. Gross Motor Skills are the first motor movements in early childhood. They are the large movements of the body using the arms, legs, torso and feet. Sitting, catching, kicking, galloping, crawling, walking, running, jumping, are considered gross motor skills.

There are many activities that can develop gross motor skills. Balancing on beams, standing on dots, crawling and climbing develop coordination, control, laterality, and synchronize the right and left body sides. Other activities consist of students crawling, going over and under objects during relays and obstacles courses.

Hopping helps control body and balance. Students can hop around objects such a low boxes and cones, dots or stepping stones. Jumping develops overall gross motor skills and coordination. Students can also jump over objects, string, a line or beanbags. Students can kick balls, balloons of various sizes.

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Fine Motor Skills for Early Childhood

Today is the third and final segment of the Motor Movement Series. Fine Motor Movements use the small muscles of the eyes, fingers, toes, wrists, lips and tongue. The small muscles work with both the large muscles to develop movement. They are often for used communication purposes, both functional and expressive, such as writing or typing text, manipulating tools or creating works of art. There is coordination of the eyes and hand, foot and eyes, and dexterity of each of the fingers to write, draw and type. Tactile and space awareness is also developed with fine motor practice.

Some activities used to teach writing include writing letters or numbers in sand, pudding, or shaving cream. Q-tips or cosmetic sponges with water writing on the chalkboard reinforce correct formation of text using water to erase letters. Toothbrushes on dry erase boards manipulate practice with downward and circular brushing movements erasing previously correct formed letters, numbers or words. Dry and wet pasta, beans and rice, other paper mediums, glitter, teach writing with correct placement on paper or cardboard.

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I hear of offices and classrooms using stability balls instead of typical chairs. Is this a good idea?

Stability balls have been a long-standing tool to help not just with exercise. They started out as a physical therapy tool. During the late 1960s, Dr. Susan Klein-Vogelbach of Basel, Switzerland, was the first individual to use the balls, particularly with those having orthopedic problems. Despite their Italian origin, “Swiss balls” got their name from American physical therapists who witnessed the use of the balls while visiting several Switzerland clinics. In 1989, physical therapist Joanne Posner-Mayer began instructing U.S. therapists on the neurological, orthopedic, and fitness applications of stability balls. Today, athletic trainers, strength coaches, personal trainers, and physical therapists around the world use stability balls in fitness and rehab programs. Most recently, teachers and principals have discovered the use of stability balls in a classroom as an effective teaching tool. My classroom has been the recipient of ten stability balls, due to the generous contributions of a grant organized by my principal Patricia Ransford, vice principal Jo Ross, and a non-profit organization called

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