It’s been an incredibly special experience to work with both the Macomb/St. Clair County Autism Society and the Macomb Intermediate School District’s (MISD) Special Education Department over the past five years. These partnerships have allowed Belightful to provide yoga, movement and mindfulness sessions for kids, adolescents and young adults with autism in our local community.
It began with a series of fun, Belightful Family Yoga sessions to foster the well-being of children, adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum, along with their parents, grandparents and guardians. Initially, we thought we were going to have two separate classes – one for those with autism and one for their much deserved caregivers. Yet, when they all arrived for the first class they wanted to practice together, which turned out to be fantastic. It helped the caregivers learn the breathing exercises and mindful movements, not only to support themselves, but to reinforce these positive habits with their child. The synergy that grew between Belightful class instruction, the parent’s repetition and the child’s on-going practice, proved especially beneficial for those on the spectrum. In particular, it helped ease the challenges faced during transitions to different activities.
“Our first class started out loud and wild at times. No one knew what to expect – there was a lot of anxiety. The repetitive component in the class – where you build on what you learned the previous week – increased the kid’s confidence and decreased their anxiety because they knew what to expect. By the end of our series, you could hear a pin drop.” Theresa Gabalis, Macomb/St. Clair Autism Society, Chapter President
Building on this model, Belightful provided a Professional Development training for many of MISD’s OT’s (occupational therapists) and PT’s (physical therapists). This year our impact has grown as we bring weekly Belightful sessions on-site to even more students during the school day through the MISD’s Special Education department and their Autism Impaired (AI) school program.
“Belightful Yoga’s professional development session proved valuable in supporting many of our school district’s physical and occupational therapists. The interactive training provided us with experiential learning and useful tools to implement immediately to positively impact the well-being of our students with special needs. We’re planning now to have Belightful come back for a longer session – we couldn’t get enough!” Kim Gollon, MA, Physical Therapist/MISD
The experience of working with this group truly inspires me. In my mind, I choose to have AI (Autism Impaired) mean Authentically “I”. The student’s ability to really live uninhibited and totally present to every moment is a lesson I’m glad to have received from them.