Increasing relaxation response and self-regulation through Yoga Therapy in a child with Asperger’s syndrome.
*Please note that all identifiable information has been removed from this document and names changed to maintain confidentiality. Consent from carers to share the case study received.
This case study offers a yoga therapy case example of working with a 9-year-old girl, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which now is classified under ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder. The girl was referred for yoga therapy session by her mum due to the struggle with coping with school and emotions. The girl wasn’t attending school at all once the sessions started. Mum attended all 5 sessions with daughter. On first session daughter was showing high anxiety levels through her body language, hardly speaking. Going into the freeze mode very easily. Progressing through sessions, she was able to talk more about her emotions and how she feels about the school. Although there was no initial interaction with therapist, she started to include the therapist in the games from sessions 3-5. She was also interacting more during the sessions and taking a lead on some of the exercises / games.
Child was referred to Yoga Therapy by mum due to problems with coping with school. By the time the sessions started she didn’t attend school at all. Daughter is still under CAMHS, however have problems with talking about her emotions. There is also Families Support Worker involved, and a tutor from the medical needs team and she has been referred to the NHS specialist occupational therapist team. Her last day at school was 29th January but before then she was only attended a few hours a day since mid-December. She now has a place at a new school starting Sept 20 which will be a slow transition on a part time basis initially.
- What did you enjoy the most in Yoga Therapy? Playing catch – hot potato!
- What you didn’t like? The glass front to the room. Anyone could see in and see me. Having to talk about school and emotional stuff.
- Did you use any of the techniques at home/school? Yes, the breathing.
- What yoga means to you? Calming things. I would do yoga again when I’m older.
- From your child’s feedback – did they enjoy yoga therapy sessions? I’m not sure ‘enjoy’ is the right word but she certainly benefited and needed the yoga sessions. Especially as they came at a time when none of the other support (other than family services) had kicked in. They gave us support and hope that we could do something positive to improve the situation.
- What did they enjoy the most? I think she liked the catching game and sensory toys bit the best. We came away with lots of ideas which we’ve incorporated into her sensory breaks such as the spiky but soft balls and the balloons filled with sand.
- What they didn’t like? It was hard for her to travel and start the sessions. She does find transition difficult but once there she was positive and tried hard.
- Did you notice any changes after the class? Like sleep pattern / breathing? She has been using some of the techniques at home very successfully. In particular the breathing. She used this the other night when she thought she was going to have a seizure. She did the yoga breathing and talked herself down from her panic. She has also started to examine her feelings, emotions and responses much more after being shown this in the sessions. This has enabled her to really grow and develop as a person over the last few months.
- Would you recommend Yoga therapy to others? Absolutely. You might not get exactly what you expect from the sessions e.g. knowledge of yoga poses but actually you get such a lot more and it’s very tailored to what your child needs.
Outcomes from Yoga Therapy
- Breath awareness – was able to use breathing techniques to self-regulate after 5 sessions.
- Motor Skills Management – was able to perform 80% of poses without me showing them.
- Coordination – At the end of the sessions, was able to stay in tree pose for over minute and with eyes closed.
- Engagement – Engagement depended on emotional state, however each time the child participated and noticed she feels better after yoga, no matter how she feels.
- Emotional Intelligence / Self-regulation – Increased awareness of emotions and self-regulation in the session, but also at home – as per mother’s feedback.
- Self-esteem – Self -esteem was increasing with each class, even though it could be low at the beginning, it was changing during the session.
by Anna Smithers