ASHRAMS FOR AUTISM

Yoga Journal - - LIVE WELL -

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.”

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