Relaxing music plays in the background while children with Autism are expanding their minds and stretching their bodies in Downward Facing Dog and Warrior yoga poses at the Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Institute (TJEEI).
Sport and Exercise Science Assistant Professor Dr. Jeanette Garcia collaborated with UCF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) to create an interdisciplinary summer yoga program for children with Autism and our college’s students.
Yoga instructors Candace Martin and Beth Stone took 8-10 year olds with Autism and Exceptional Student Education and Sport and Exercise Science students on an imaginary yoga journey for the past five weeks—from beach excursions to mimicking animal sounds and positions—and will continue the learning adventure during the Fall.
Dr. Garcia has seen progress.
“Research has shown that yoga is a good exercise for kids with Autism because of the repetition, mindfulness, and breathing. The children have become more confident and vocal about their poses. It has been great watching these kids engaged, laughing, smiling, and enjoying yoga.”
Exceptional Education doctoral student and TJEEI scholar Rebecca Hopkins is conducting research about preparing teachers to work with students with Autism. She was impressed with the children learning yoga and feels it can make a difference in the classroom.
“I think yoga is a good way to prepare children with Autism for academic activities and be more engaged and open to learning.”