Friday, May 29, 2009

Yoga - The Inclusive Activity

As the merchant for Achievement Products I am constantly reviewing the sales results of the items we offer, identifying the best sellers to insure we offer the best of the most desirable products. Generally, the trends we see in best selling products are the result of: current therapy practices as noted in therapy newsletters and related publications; the introduction of entirely new products; the updating of existing popular items. Once in awhile though we see a trend that surprises us because the results cannot be easily explained within these common sales drivers. Our sales results for yoga related products are a perfect example of this.

When I saw the successful sales results of the yoga products we offer, assorted card decks, cd’s and mats (you will find a link to the most popular items below), I was intrigued and wanted to know how and why yoga was such a popular choice in the special needs markets. I learned the following:

* From the perspective of a special needs teacher, yoga:-improves focus and attention-enhances relaxation through stretching and breathing-fosters reduced anxiety resulting in fewer behavioral meltdowns by redirecting the children with special needs to a breathing or stretching exercise at the onset

*From RONNO, author of "Catch a Brain Wave Fitness Fun", yoga:-develops flexibility, strength, stamina, agility, balance, coordination and cardiovascular fitness-emphasizes proper body alignment so children avoid injury-promotes mental and physical health and a positive attitude toward exercise-promotes concentration, self-discipline and develops inner strength and clarity-teaches children to value their breath because breath meditation helps them to deepen and slow down their breath, becoming calmer and more inward focused-can build cooperative skills and good social behavior by working with a partner or group-promotes positive communication and good listening skills which foster self-respect, compassion and respect for others-encourages children's creative imagination and self expression-is suitable for all ages and physical abilities-builds self confidence

*From a registered nurse and certified massage therapist with a degree in cardiovascular health, yoga: -teaches tone-stretches muscles-works the respiratory system-strengthens by "holding poses"--helps attention span-gives more stability

*From the guide included in our best selling YOGA FOR KIDS CD item # AP9172
by Mary Hanley Martin who has studied Yoga extensively with various instructors from Europe and the U.S. while attending the University of Cincinnati for courses in anatomy and physiology.


-Yoga means simply, “union”. It is an ancient science developed centuries ago in India to help bring together a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental and physical parts into a united whole. Its goal is spiritual peace, mental alertness, emotional well -being and physical health
-The basic building block (of yoga)…concerns the physical part of a person
-After concentrating on performing the (postures), the…Yoga student notices his/her body becoming flexible and strong; the mind becoming calm and tranquil. The postures release inner tensions and the student discovers a sense of emotional well-being. The knowledge of how the body works, moves and responds to the directions of one’s mind can cause the person to respect and like oneself
-(Yoga) can be done right in the home or school without any equipment except the floor, a rug or mat
-the Yoga postures are self-rewarding and when children find they can perform a posture and look like a bird or a turtle, their self-confidence is elevated and they become more enthusiastic
-in…yoga effort is everything. Perfect accomplishment of any posture is of little importance
-yoga postures are extremely adaptable and substitute variations can be used in any position.
-for children who have physical limitations, you can use your imagination to work around those difficulties. You will find that these children respond beautifully because Yoga is a physical activity from which they are not excluded
-realize that you are giving to your children an easy, effective and beautiful psychomotor therapy program that they can carry with them into adulthood!

I came away from all this with a number of thoughts:

1.) I need to enroll in a yoga class right away!
2.) If everyone in the world took a 15 minute yoga break everyday, this world would be a different place!
3.) Yoga is a wonderful activity for the inclusive classroom. It is one of those products that transcend typically developing and special needs children as well as age. That makes it one of my favorite products of all!

Do you have experience in your program or your child’s program with yoga? Please share your stories with us. Yoga seems to be a very empowering activity so there must be some wonderful stories out there!

Achievement Products offers the following yoga items:
Yoga Kit for Kids AP7157
Angel Bear Yoga Play Deck AP90062
Yoga for Kids CD AP9172
Yoga Activity Cards APDYOGA

Rainbow Mat AP643
Folding Exercise Mat AP1401
Ultra Light Folding Mat AP11191
Patterned Folding Mat AP1123

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Messy Art: The Power of Sensory Play

Editor's Note: Some children love the experience of tactile, “messy art” while others, particularly those with sensory disorders, may find it unsettling. Encourage all children to participate at a level and pace that makes them comfortable.

Messy art is great fun for children and provides them with delight! Children love to play with paint and other gooey materials that tickle their senses. Messy art lets children discover the emotional pleasures of sensory and tactile play. Not only does messy art engage a child's senses in open-ended play, it also develops cognitive, social-emotional and multi-sensory skills. Self directed learning with fluid, sensory and tactile art materials is especially important in early childhood. These fluid sensory art experiences provide children with exciting physical contacts that motivate exploration. The fluid nature of paint provides for dynamic and rapidly changing explorations of color, shape and textures on paper. Painting is indeed, a powerful process!

Reduce clean-up by using Colorations Simply Washable Tempera, Washable Glitter Paint, and No Mess Art Trays.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Visual Timers

As a parent of a child with Autism, I am always looking for tools that will help my son manage in a world that can so easily overwhelm him. One of my biggest challenges has been helping him learn patience and the concept of time. The Visual Timer has been one of the best solutions I have found to address this problem. You set the timer by turning a dial to the desired number of minutes. The time you set shows up in red and as time counts down, the red goes away. There are several versions to choose from, including one for the computer, one that has an audible“beep” at the end of the timer and one without a beep.

My son is a visual learner, so having time he can “see” has been crucial to his understanding of time and patience. We use the Visual Timer at home and at School, and have experienced fewer non-compliant episodes when transitioning because he can see when it is time to switch and prepare for it, even when it is to a non-preferred activity. I suggested this product to the teacher of an inclusion program he was part of and she said that not only did it help my son, but it helped the rest of the class as well.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Special Needs

Hello, I am John Funk, the Manager of Education Programs at Discount School Supply. My job is to help create products that are developmentally appropriate for early childhood. I was a classroom teacher for over 25 years, working with PreK, Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades.

In 1975, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 94-142, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). A central component of IDEA was the Free and Public Education (FAPE) provision, which guarantees a free public education for all students with exceptionalities. One of my favorite parts of this law is that it guarantees the opportunity for schools and families to hold each other accountable for a student’s education.

Involving the family members in a child’s education plan is critical. I think it is important for all children to have that family involvement. We know through research that parental involvement creates a higher level of school success for a child. As educators, we have a responsibility to help parents develop skills as well as their child. Through my years of teaching I found that unsupportive parents usually lack parenting skills. If I gave them certain activities to do at home, most families followed through and completed those activities. Parents want their children to succeed. Sometimes, they just don’t know how to make that happen.

The law insists that parents of children with exceptionalities be involved in the education plan. Every parent should be involved in an educational plan.

Here are few suggestions for training and involving family members:

**Give the parent the responsibility of one of the development guidelines (outcomes) appropriate for their child. For example, one preschool standard is: “The child shows interest in reading-related activities.” Assign the family to document for a couple of weeks every time the child wants to read a story or shows any other interest in reading activities. Have the parent report back to you the results.
**Host a family night where you demonstrate simple activities to do at home to support learning.
**ALWAYS answer notes and requests from parents the day you receive them. Parents feel disconnected when the teacher doesn’t respond in a timely manner.
**Never send homework unless there is a clear explanation on how it is to be done. Parents feel discouraged when they can’t help the child complete a task. Don’t assume parents have all the information needed.
I loved training and involving the parents in my classroom. Family members feel more confidence and have a healthier attitude toward their child’s school when they are involved with the process.