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SEN - Really stretch your pupils

What the lesson is about

When an unresponsive child steps forward to show you that he wants to do a yoga posture, knows how to do it, can speak his first ever word - and can finish the line of a song for the first time in his nine-year-old life, it feels like the icing on the cake. But getting to that point is far from easy, writes Michael Chissick.

I've been teaching yoga to children with autism in special schools for 13 years and there are certainly difficult moments.

The solution is to be highly structured. I have children sitting on chairs in a circle and use a visual timetable with posture cards to keep my verbal input minimal. Then I target several layers simultaneously.

The most important is engagement and I have a plateful of tactics; for example, encouraging children to choose from posture cards which are hanging from an umbrella, or having a child emerge from behind a portable curtain singing a song.

What else?

Fun is another key element. A child eagerly gets out of their chair and into the posture because it's fun; and if it continues to be fun they want to stay in the posture. Repetition of postures over the weeks helps the child become more at ease, confident and skilled.

Simple social skills like waiting, listening, speaking, helping each other, taking turns and following rules are also important, though usually it's the benefit to their fitness, flexibility and coordination which attracts attention. But for me the most exciting element is the benefit to the SEN pupils' movement and spatial awareness. Yoga can help regulate them.

Where to find it

Frog's Breathtaking Speech by Michael Chissick, illustrated by Sarah Peacock, is published by Singing Dragon.

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