Yoga for Children with Special Needs

A recent statutory job I had was piloting teaching YOU & ME Yoga within the Occupational Therapy department for children and young people of a Central London hospital.  With 22 cases inc. babies, toddlers, children and teenagers diagnosed with:

severe learning and physical disabilities, PMLD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, developmental coordination disorder (dyspraxia)

presenting poor: mobility, coordination, core stability, attention span, concentration and difficulty with organisation, and clumsiness, etc.

Project scheme:
The Team Lead invited parents/carers within the catchment area to bring their children to the yoga project. Involving an initial one-to-one meeting with the Yoga Therapist (me) to establish a suitable individualised yoga plan for each child. With the option to attend a short course in a group with other children to motivate learning and on going yoga practice together. Or if unable to attend the group meetings after the individual assessment session, it would be possible to continue practice at home with their individualised yoga plan.

Initial Consultation and Assessment:
A health questionnaire was completed by the client’s parent/guardian before our one-to-one session. To establish the child’s condition, character, communication, physical abilities and any health needs.

The parent, therapist or carer was expected to accompany the client. We discussed the individual client’s medical and health condition, and the main problem areas and goals were established and agreed. 

Then I assessed the client’s joint range and ability for practising yoga. A lesson plan is always planned in conjunction with the YOU & ME Whole-Body-Movement recording system that provides - at a glance - the condition, limitations and abilities of the client. From which the most suitable and safe techniques can be selected for that clients’ yoga lesson plan, for reference and on-going practice.

Group Yoga Sessions
Eighteen children continued attending the weekly group yoga sessions, that were arranged into A, B, C, i.e. equivalent to mild, moderate, severe disabilities. The remaining children and parents had a few more one-to-one sessions with me to reinforce the yoga plan instructions for their home practice together.

It was possible to hold group classes incorporating these clients’ individual yoga plans. Simply because with YOU & ME Yoga we include a technique for all the seven different areas of the whole body, i.e. the legs, hips, waist, chest, arms, alternate sides, upper and lower body. Hence, in class we can work all together on the same body part including each client’s particular technique.

A sample Yoga Plan for Student 1 case-study:
Main Problems:
Severe athetoid quadriplegia; Stiffness of limbs; core stability weakness; neck extensor spasm.
To help free stiffness in body with practice of whole-body-movement sequence
Strengthen core stability with suitable techniques
Tune into the diaphragm to articulate lungs and tone abdomen
Establish suitable sitting and or holding techniques for mum and baby
Assist child to relax, using massage and relaxation techniques.


The originally planned short course of group sessions extended beyond one term to nine months of three weekly classes for the eighteen students.  The staff, parents and children seemed to enjoy and appreciate the sessions. The audit forms I kept with the outcomes of each session show how many of the set goals were addressed and helped reduce the problems of most of the children. Involving improved: body awareness, coordination, mobility, flexibility, strength, core stability, sensory awareness, self-confidence, adaptive behaviour, communication and confidence. Some parents even joined a yoga class for themselves, and most have since reported how much they enjoy practising yoga at home with their special child!
See Older Posts...
"I have seen great improvements in the students' abilities in the following areas: balance, strength, coordination, body awareness, breath control, posture control, relaxation skills, and social skills.”
External verifier