ASHRAMS FOR AUTISM
WHEN SHARON MANNER’S youngest child, Kerri, was diagnosed with autism more than 20 years ago, the young mom went through a gamut of ups and downs, trying to figure out how to best help her daughter—and deal with the difficult diagnosis herself. As a yogi, Manner instinctively knew her teachers and practices would help to support her. What she didn’t realize, at least at first, was how much yoga would help her daughter, too.
“At one point, Kerri was in the hospital and taking several medications,” Manner says. “I didn’t want that for her.” As a result, she created calming yoga sequences for her daughter, cooked a
sattvic diet that eliminated stimulating foods, and brought Kerri to regular acupressure and Reiki appointments—all aimed at helping Kerri get grounded and self-regulate when overstimulation ultimately did occur. Manner’s efforts paid off, and Kerri started navigating the highs and lows of her autism symptoms more easily. When Manner told her yoga mentor about this success, he helped her develop a program to bring her yogainspired regimen to schools and other facilities for kids with autism. In 2010, she founded Ashrams for Autism, implementing her programs in New York– area schools and autism facilities and offering 100-hour Yoga Alliance trainings to teach people how to work with autistic kids and their caregivers.
At first, most people in the trainings were yoga teachers, Manner says. But these days, they’re filled with doctors, lawyers, and so many others who’ve been touched by the autism community. “Our ultimate goal is to build ashram-inspired spaces where students and young adults can live after they age out of their autism programs,” says Manner. “And we’re getting close!”
Manner says she finds as much joy in Ashrams for Autism as the students do. “The happiness this program brings to everyone who works here is undeniable. We bring these children yoga, and what’s reflected back to us is pure consciousness and love. It’s beautiful.”