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Experiencing Yoga At Coconut Palm Elementary

S.T.O.P. and Relax in Classrooms

Autism Notebook Magazine, October 2013

The start of the school year always brings new and exciting ideas and strategies teachers want to implement in their classrooms.This year, the autism cluster classrooms of Coconut Palm Elementary School have started incorporating yoga warmups into their daily schedules. After one of their current students appeared on a local news piece practicing yoga at a summer camp, their teachers decided they would like to try this f o rm of exercise with their students, which enhances breathing and increases flexibility and strength. The teachers are implementing a simple program that uses the basic yoga poses, while utilizing PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) visuals within each session. The STOP technique (Soft face/ soft shoulders, Take 5 deep breaths, Open chest, Posture check) is incorporated to further enhance the activity. This helps the students tune in to their breathing and focus on having calm bodies.The yoga sessions vary by classroom depending upon the individual students. Some teachers conduct their yoga session first thing in the morning to start off the day, while others feel it's more effective midway through the day to help the students re-focus their attention on academic tasks. Since the implementation of the daily yoga sessions, there have been fewer behavioral challenges in the classrooms. The students seem calmer and are better able to bring themselves back together when feeling anxious, frustrated or overwhelmed. "The program has really helped my student. He was very anxious about not being able to do some of the poses at first and now he is using the techniques when he starts to get worked up," says Ms. Ruth De-Melo, an autism cluster teacher. Coconut Palm Elementary is very excited about the positive outcome yoga is bringing to their classrooms and looks forward to even greater growth and improvement.

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