Hello, and welcome to Classroom Yoga STOP!
Some years ago, when we first set out to introduce yoga to children with autism during their school day, our goal was to alleviate the anxiety and tension that appeared to hold them in its overwhelming grip. As we worked together – a psychologist (me!), two special education teachers, a yoga therapist, and the children – we learned a great deal.
We did not have to be perfect to be successful: if you are reading this because you aim to bring S.T.O.P. and Relax to your own students, take this lesson to heart!
The accomplishments were greater than we had first imagined. Yes, the children learned to relax and to manage situations that previously had caused them to erupt in anger or quaver with anxiety. In doing so, they developed greater motor strength, control, and balance, along with increased physical and mental flexibility. The four-step S.T.O.P. procedure, inspired by the need for a relaxation cue that would be effective outside of the yoga sessions, was adopted by staff, parents, and the children themselves, who eventually began prompting each other!
We share this with you through the S.T.O.P. and Relax curriculum. The classroom is an ideal place for children to learn and practice the skills that culminate in self-calming. Children certainly spend a great deal of time at school, and they need self-calming skills to manage stresses that otherwise would interrupt their engagement in the academic and social opportunities of the school day. For the teacher, this curriculum provides more than a single yoga DVD or short break. S.T.O.P. and Relax provides tools that can be adapted for different ability levels, different schedules, and different settings. It equips teachers for progress monitoring and incorporates methods to promote functional generalization, supporting learning and social growth.
In future posts, we will follow the progress of a school preparing to introduce the S.T.O.P. and Relax program to preschool children with autism spectrum disorders. There will be planned events and unexpected situations – opportunities for creative solutions!