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A whole new way to engage autism

Welcome parents, caregivers, and professionals! Our new nonprofit invites your engagement in services that provide support, guidance, and education. We’re here to empower young families living with autism.

Your relationship with your child is so important to his social and emotional well being — now and throughout his lifetime. You spend the most time living with and loving your child. You have the greatest commitment to his development and lifelong happiness. But autism can make it hard to connect with your child. And because each child expresses autism in an individual way, it can be a confusing, frustrating, and time consuming process to find ways to support your child’s specific needs. We know. We’re there too.

We believe that parents are the key to lifelong success for children living with autism. It is, after all, a diagnosis that involves the whole family. Our volunteer board of directors, our writers and our presenters are all personally engaged with autism. It is this personal connection that fuels our passion for sharing, with you, what we know. We are dedicated to building bridges between research, practice and everyday life. It is at this center that engagement, true engagement, begins.

Here, families are the center. We offer education from experts,  how the latest research affects your family, and strategies that benefit your child. And we’re always looking for ways to grow. Explore with us the many possibilities of living with autism.

We’re here to help foster your child’s growth and development – and realize the joy of nurturing your child. Join our blog where we provide a place for everyone to learn and grow.

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Yoga for Autism: Digestion

So many kids living with autism struggle with digestive issues. That’s exactly why we were excited about our last Lecture Series – Yoga for Autism: Digestion. Finding gentle but effective ways to ease your child’s discomfort and kickstart better overall health was the main theme of the class. Jessica Jenness started off by introducing the Ayurveda concept of “digestive fire.”

Our goal is a balanced digestive fire but some people have “high fire,” “low fire,” or “irregular fire.” We learned ways to dampen a high fire through cooling foods or spark a low fire through adding spices.

Foods for a balanced digestion

  • Ghee (Clarified butter) is healing to the digestive system
  • Kitchari is a meal used for cleansing and healing properties
  • Ginger is a warming food that is good for digestive health

The class then moved into a tailored yoga practice that leads to a balanced digestive system. Poses that help with digestion are twisting poses, belly down poses, inversions and grounding poses. Whether your child has constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowels, these poses can provide relief and healing.

A quick set of poses that can give relief

Join us for our final Yoga for Autism class on August 22! We will be focusing on yoga poses that promote emotional regulation. More information here.

The Benefits of Family Yoga

I started a baby yoga book with my son when he was 18 months old. His home occupational therapist from the school district lent it to us. I was into yoga at the time and thought it would be fun. He was just barely walking, so I mostly put him in the poses and held him upside down for calming effects.

Then life with autism pulled us away from yoga; school therapies increased, and I was driving him to Minneapolis three times a week for more therapy. I had another baby on the way, and I was doing my training to become a yoga instructor. Life got too busy, stress was high and although I was doing what I needed to stay calm, I felt disconnected from my son. Fast forward a couple years and my son was about to start a full-time therapy center after two years of in-home therapy, and I was worried about feeling even more disconnected.

After my yoga for autism training I wanted to try the practice with my son, now age five, and his two sisters, who were seven and two. It was wonderful to find something we could all do together. It was challenging at times when they just wanted to run around like crazy (the two-year-old), and make fun of poses (the seven-year-old), or just sit and stim (my son with autism). But I stuck with it, doing it simply for the love of it. Yoga is a life-long practice. A practice that can guide your life on an amazing path of gratitude, love and health.

I would like to say yoga has erased my child’s autism symptoms and helped him in every area. That’s not what’s happening on our journey. It has helped my children reach calm and gives them confidence. Plus it’s improved my son’s motor planning and muscle tone. These benefits ease our daily lives, but the true benefit is less tangible.

For me, it’s all about connection. I find it hard to get my son to play with me. Interacting in small, everyday ways just doesn’t happen. So, this is our way. We breathe together, move together and relax and enjoy it. It’s about being present with my children while we are here on this planet to grow and learn together. And it’s about teaching them to love yoga like I do. So, eventually, my kids will have something healthy to turn to in times of stress, when they need to calm and center themselves.

And yoga does have a ton of health benefits – mental, emotional and physical. It helps with muscle strength, motor planning, circulation, digestion. Breathing tools reduce stress, anxiety, depression and anger.

For calming we do “HA” breaths:

  • reaching your arms up and out, take a deep breath in
  • then sigh out HAAA as you bring your hands toward your belly
  • This stimulates the parasynthetic nervous system and releases stress and anxiety
  • Great to do with kids all the time
  • help them understand when they can use it on their own to calm down
  • in anxious moments, they have a powerful tool they can use

Doing these breathing techniques yourself when you feel stressed will not only help you, it helps your children too. They have a calmer parent and a model showing them how to actively practice calm daily. Well, more like 10 times a day for me. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can get enough calming breaths in my day.

Bringing yoga into your daily life and practicing with your children is a wonderful way to connect, reduce stress and be healthier. That’s why I started teaching other families living with autism these strategies through my Au-some Family yoga classes. Connecting parents and children, getting them to breathe together, have fun together and relax. No therapy to work on, no school, just time to BE together. We welcome kids of all abilities and with other special needs as well. I can’t stress enough that even if your child isn’t doing what we are doing, even if they sit in the back and stim the whole class, they are still taking it in and benefiting from it. Siblings are also welcome to join in!

If you can’t make it to a structured class, there are a lot of great yoga books and relaxation books for kids. You can find them at yogakids.com and amazon.com. One of our favorites is Good Night Yoga and the Yoga Garden Game.

Join us for the final yoga for autism classes: Digestion on July 18 and Emotional Regulation on August 22!

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