A great resource for parents and educators of teens and kids living on the spectrum.
By V.K. Harber
April is Autism Awareness Month and Tuesday was Autism Awareness Day. As a yoga teacher, I have had the immense privilege of working with children of various ages who exist on the spectrum. It has been, without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of my work and I am always so touched to see these kids connect in some way that I am told tends to elude them outside of their yoga (and other therapeutic) sessions.
I am not a clinician or an expert on autism. I only know what I have experienced and witnessed and all of the children I have worked with have benefited — some in big ways and some in small ways — through the practice of Yoga. The parents of the children I have been able to guide through a practice have told me that it has given them a sense of confidence, tools for dealing with overwhelming feelings, and a safe space to be themselves.
These are incredibly valuable things for any child to have, but especially so for children who exist on the autism spectrum in a world that is not designed for them. Every once in a while I start to feel a bit overwhelmed and helpless myself when I dwell on all of the challenges of raising children in today’s world and the failures of our educational systems and the general difficulty that those who fall outside of the norm have feeling supported. Then I learn about organizations like Shanti Generation and my faith in the overwhelming goodness of people is restored.
Shanti Generation is the brainchild of Abby Wills and its stated Core Concept is that, “ By mindfully engaging in the paradox of unity and diversity, participants in Shanti Generation embrace difference and recognize interconnectivity”. They accomplish their mission of “cultivating a generation of peacemakers” through various programs for children, teens, parents, and educators. I recently saw one of their DVDs, Partner Yoga for Teens, and was just blown away by the thoughtfulness that went into its creation. (Not to mention the completely green DVD cover made from 100% recycled materials, soy ink, and a biodegradable potato starch DVD tray!) The DVD features nine teens who regularly practice yoga; some of whom are on the autism spectrum. In addition to the 10 yoga sequences, it also features interviews with the participants about bullying, compassion, empowerment, community, and stress. Listening to these kids express themselves about these topics in such thoughtful and mindful ways is so encouraging.
As a yoga teacher with a good deal of experience working with children with autism, I highly recommend this DVD to any parent or educator who is looking for a tool for connection. And as the mother of a future teen I can see its value for any and all teens in providing them with an opportunity to de-stress, restore, and reconnect.
About V.K. Harber
V.K. Harber is a yogi, writer and mother of one. She is the co-founder and former managing director of Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center in Tacoma, WA, a non-profit yoga studio.She currently resides in Seoul, South Korea where she works as a yoga teacher and post-partum doula. (www.vkharber.com) She is also a contributing writer at World Moms Blog and can be found on twitter @VKHarberRYT.