Jill Kovacs TIA April 2015

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EveryBODYoga Jill Suzanne Kovacs [email protected] April 2015 EEX 4070


Melissa Parker and her husband, Ted founded the group inspired by their own child who was diagnosed with Autism. The Parkers have been active volunteers with the Scott Center for Autism through FIT for many years The Parker family has been at work for children for years, but just officially formed their foundation in October of 2014 One of the branches is Speak Through Sports, and the purpose is to engage children with Autism or ASD in sports activities. They have hosted Aces for Autism at the Kiwi Tennis Club and other sporting events for children with Autism or ASD in Brevard County Ted Parker handles the fundraising and finances while Melissa, a registered nurse, guides and organizes the activities for the children

EveryBODYoga My Original Project:

EveryBODYoga My Original Project I wanted to use skills I had attained through my yoga certification and my teaching experience so I began researching yoga for children and for children with disabilities in order to create a program where all could find success There is much research supporting yoga and its benefits for children with ASD and ADD and other disabilities, but I feel that the benefits of yoga should be experienced by everyone regardless of ability After some research I found the movement “Yogautism” but felt I could improve on it by creating EveryBODYoga “Yogautism” is isolates the students and I wanted to create an environment where “EveryBODY” could participate and learn together One of our lessons in EEX 4070 encourages teaching all children together when appropriate and I believe that yoga is a good venue for that

Engagement Activities:

Engagement Activities I chose to work with children with Autism or ASD because I have 5 friends with children diagnosed with Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder I wanted to use my teaching experience and my passion for yoga to bring yoga to this special group My friend, Melissa Parker invited families from Speak Through Sports and arranged for a dance studio for us to use I teach the class Friday afternoons from 3:30-4:15 and Saturday mornings from 9:30-10:15 at Beachside Dance Club in Satellite Beach

“NAMASTE” Song and movements:

“ NAMASTE ” Song and movements I began and ended each class with a song I called the Namaste song- it features an easy melody and gestures to represent the words I was encouraged by their enjoyment of the song so I led the song, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” when we learned the star pose Besides using song and nonverbal movements I also played “Yogi Jill Says” a variation on the child’s game, “Simon Says” I was attempting to create a bridge to new learning by using familiar songs and games

“SAVASANA” Floating on a cloud pose:

“SAVASANA” Floating on a cloud pose Many children with ASD and ADD suffer from anxiety and have trouble relaxing so one of my main goals was to help the children relax Yoga is a natural way to achieve that goal as it is based on calming breaths and slow movements Most important in our practice was the “Savasana” pose, what I called f loating on a cloud

Participant Demographics:

Participant Demographics My project involved 6 children with Autism, Asperger’s, and other children on the spectrum as well as their siblings and caregivers Each family was a part of Speaking through Sports and had at least one family member with ASD The number of participants varied from week to week from 4-9 students and the ages of the participants ranged from 4 to 54 The IDEA defines Autism as a “developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.”

Perceptions of Differences:

Perceptions of Differences From experience and my class I expected children who might be nonverbal, engage in repetitive behaviors, and unusual responses to the new experience I had very low expectations of how the children might respond but very high hopes! I intended to lead the group in a calming experience in a caring environment At the first session some children wouldn’t stay on their mats or attempt the poses, however I just kept teaching and encouraging EveryBODY

The practice of yoga centers around breathing, calming exercises and relaxing the mind The lighting is very low in the studio due to the fact that our students feel calmer in dim lighting :

The practice of yoga centers around breathing, calming exercises and relaxing the mind The lighting is very low in the studio due to the fact that our students feel calmer in dim lighting

Connections to EEX 4070:

Connections to EEX 4070 Through the experience of teaching these children yoga, I now have a better understanding of physical and learning disabilities and how these symptoms affect simple tasks and how that can affect the children’s self concept By creating a new learning environment, I was able to see first hand how the children behaved in different settings and how they reacted to new tasks I created EveryBODYoga to allow the children to be in a learning environment without being isolated. This allowed me to gain knowledge about how the child with ASD relates to their family and how the family dynamic is impacted by a special needs child Everything I learned in my project will have a direct impact on my classroom teaching as more and more children are diagnosed with ASD and are in general education classes. I am now planning on adding Special Education certification to my own professional goals

(Connections continued):

(Connections continued) The textbook outlined the clinical definitions and expectations but nothing can compare to actually spending time with this unique group of children The impaired social interaction was challenging at first but viewing them as unique learners with their own gifts and letting go of expectations was helpful Each week I examined what worked and what didn’t and changed my instruction as I was learning It was so beneficial to see them outside of a formal classroom participating in activities purely for exercise and enjoyment without the burden of a grade or assessment

Civic Engagement:

Civic Engagement Volunteering with citizens with disabilities helps people see that we are much more alike than different Service learning encourages volunteers to engage in mindful volunteering that serves a meaningful purpose Teachers have always been role models for their students, by modeling service learning, we are endorsing volunteering to everyone parents and students alike Personally, I am still teaching yoga on Fridays and Saturdays to the Speaking Through Sports group and plan on extending through the summer. I would encourage service learning for teachers because I think I learned a lot from working with these families that will help me be a better teacher It really is a win/win for the volunteers and the participants!

Final Thoughts & Reflections:

Final Thoughts & Reflections I think the best way to gain understanding and empathy for persons with disabilities is to spend time with them At first I was unsure what to expect, but as the weeks progressed I focused on what we “ could ” do and not what we “ couldn’t ” do Teachers have a unique position to make children feel happy and successful As teachers we also have an opportunity to encourage others in the community to reach out to citizens with disabilities

More thoughts & Reflections:

More thoughts & Reflections I grew up in a time when students with disabilities were isolated and removed from the public eye It is so wonderful to see students with disabilities in public schools because after all they are just children and all children are unique I am so grateful to have been able to spend time with these lovely children and families It deepened my understanding and empathy for them I gained valuable insights into the lives of their siblings and caregivers It has been a rewarding journey for me and one that has just begun

With Thanks and Gratitude This project would not have been possible without the guidance and inspiration from the following individuals and groups :

With Thanks and Gratitude This project would not have been possible without the guidance and inspiration from the following individuals and groups The Parker Foundation : Speaking Through Sports Beachside Dance Club , Satellite Beach Dr. Dan Ezell , UCF professor Melissa Parker NAMASTE Yogi Jill

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