Looking for ways to include kids & teens with different learning styles in your yoga groups? Want to use positive ways to support participation and reduce problematic behaviors? Then you might want to consider using “visual supports”.
Many of the kids I work with in OMazing Kids Yoga have difficulty understanding & following verbal instructions. This can be due to a difference in learning style (visual vs. auditory learner), difficulty maintaining attention (ex: ADD/ADHD), difficulty tuning out extra sensory input to be able to attend (ex: Sensory Processing Disorders), focusing in too much on an area of high interest to the point that the child has difficulty attending to other information (ex: Autism Spectrum Disorders), specific learning disabilities, etc…
Regardless of “why” the child is having difficulty understanding & following instructions, this will make it difficult for them to participate in a meaningful way in activities, including a kids yoga class.
Adding “visual supports” (ex: pictures of the poses, pictures to depict the sequence of activities that will occur in the group, pictures to show the “steps” within an activity, showing “first ____ / then _______”, etc…) can make a BIG difference for many kids.
Here are a few examples of visual supports I created to use in OMazing Kids Yoga:
Some kids do well with a “Social Story” describing the expected behavior and how that makes other feel:
Some kids do well with a left-to-right schedule showing what will happen in the group (other kids do better with a top-to-bottom type schedule):
Some kids need extra visual cues to help them understand concepts:
(Note: These are just a few examples of the many different visual supports I use. Every child is unique so I often modify things or make new visual supports to meet those unique needs. Some kids do better with photos, black & white symbols or just words.)
Looking for PDF printable versions of some visual supports? Here are a few: yoga breathing visual support (flower and candle), Social Story “Good Behavior in Yoga Group” with picture symbols, Peace Tree – guided visualization.
How Do I Make These Visual Supports? I use a combination of Boardmaker, MS Word, MS Paint, Google Images and the “snipping tool” in Windows 7. Boardmaker is a software program commonly used by Special Education teachers, Speech-Language Pathologists and other therapists to make communication boards, educational materials & visual supports for kids with special needs. Mayer Johnson offers a 30-day free trial of the program (http://www.mayer-johnson.com/downloads/trials/) and free online trainings on how to use it (http://www.mayer-johnson.com/training/recorded/details/id/2189/).
More About Visual Supports
Visual supports help many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other special needs understand their world better.
Just as many adults need calendars, to-do lists, shopping lists and planners to remind them of their activities for the day, many children need visual schedules and other visual supports.
Visual supports enhance understanding of what is going to happen and clarify expectations during that specific time period or activity.
In addition, visual supports often help the child move from one activity to the next with less frustration and reduced behavioral outbursts because the symbols turn the unknown into something the child understands.
The consistency provided by a visual support is crucial in establishing an atmosphere of trust and
security. Visual supports can also provide motivation for the child to work through a less preferred activity knowing a preferred/reinforcing activity is coming soon.
The type of symbols used, number of activities and amount of time shown on a visual schedule depend on the individual child’s needs.
If you want even more info about “visual supports”, check out these websites:
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Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP, IAYT, RCYP-2
Founder of OMazing Kids Yoga, LLC – inclusive yoga for kids & teens of all abilities in Norman, Oklahoma
Radiant Child Yoga Certified – Levels 1 & 2