By Leslie Lindsay
Yoga + Kids + Speech = some of my very favorite things.
~APRAXIA MONDAY|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~
Spotlight: TALK YOGA
I am so delighted to introduce you to two fabulous speech-language pathologists, Kim Hughes and Amy Roberts, both certified yoga instructors and pediatric SLPs. Their practice, TalkYoga is mentioned in the updated, 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2020) and with good reason—I love yoga!
For years, I have practiced, but it wasn’t until the last five years or so that I really became a yogi. Before that, my daughter, Kate, now 15 with resolving CAS, participated in yoga-like poses during her combined ST/OT sessions. Kate is what we might call a ‘sensory seeker’ and so the movement—and the dedication—yoga provided important feedback and stimulation.
Here, I ask Kim and Amy a few questions about how yoga practice can help kids with speech development. Please join us!
Kim and Amy—welcome! I am so pumped about your yoga for kids, TalkYoga program. Can you tell us a bit about how you designed your practice?
Of course! In 2005, Amy began working in Washington DC at a school for children with learning disabilities. Kim was assigned to be her clinical supervisor and an instant friendship began. Soon we discovered that we shared a love for yoga and all things yogic and the rest is history! In the Spring of 2007, we created an after school program called “The Language of Yoga.” Yoga poses were taught to the students and vocabulary was introduced to the students in fun and creative ways. After years of life, changing jobs, raising children, and supporting each other from afar, eventually the stars aligned, and it was time to re-visit the concept of merging yoga and speech and language therapy. Talk Yoga was born. We met weekly in Amy’s basement (while Amy’s youngest daughter was napping), designing a program that incorporated developmental milestones in speech and language and the movement of yoga. We designed articulation poses, flows, and other movement based methods to bring into our therapy. We see this concept as a shift from sitting at a table in traditional therapy, and as a way to empower children who often feel as if they cannot do anything quite right. Yoga’s simple and beautiful asanas help children learn to express themselves in a positive, noncompetitive environment. They are free to explore, to express, to learn, and to play!
I would think kids would love this! There’s fun, and movement, but maybe there are children who are reluctant? What then?
Yes we have definitely had reluctant yogis! In Talk Yoga, we never pressure a child to participate. We honor their unique learning styles and often their need to observe first before they jump right in! Yoga is an act of bravery for many. It may be new and sometimes uncomfortable. We feel that teaching children to be okay with new experiences and discomfort is an invaluable skill.
We have taught classes where children sit on their mats and watch for possibly weeks on end. For example, in one preschool class we had one little yogi who watched each class intently. After about 4 months, we heard from his parents that he had been demonstrating the poses to the family at home each week! He eventually did start to participate in class at his own timing and pace, and showed an increase in self confidence.
Can you give us some examples of how parents can bring yoga home while also focusing on speech, but maybe not overtly? Maybe a couple of poses for beginners?
As therapists, we are always hoping that generalization of skills occurs outside of the therapy room. We find that when we teach our Talk Yoga articulation poses to our yogis they are eager to share them with their families the minute they get home! We encourage our clients to teach these poses to their parents and siblings, and include the special sounds , words, and phrases that accompany each pose. For example, “bubble” and “popcorn” poses are favorites! These poses address early developing speech sounds. As we talk about the poses with our clients and their parents we discuss what is happening with our gross motor movements and how this relates to our fine motor movements. For example, in “bubble” pose, our arms/hands begin together and then strongly burst open as our lips begin together and then burst open to make the “b” sound. Parents can play with the poses to see how many “b” sounds they can make while in the pose, and then find objects in their home that have the “b” sound – all the while playfully making the yoga pose when an object is found. “Big bubble bursting” is our special “bubble” catch phrase! If the child is at the word level, parents can model new words to address the target sound, such as, “Blue bubble bursting; Big bubble ballooning!” Parents are playing and having fun with their children while addressing articulation skills…and their children aren’t even aware that they are “working!”
Thank you, Kim and Amy for taking the time! Is there anything else you’d like to add about the benefits of yoga and speech development?
We feel strongly that connecting to gross motor movements helps children connect to the fine motor positioning and movements in their mouths. We have seen this connection time and time again and continue to be inspired by it! Talk Yoga also brings so much to language development as well! We find Talk Yoga breathing techniques, tune-ins, and flows to be wonderful ways to get our yogis to be more mindful, to improve joint attention, improve self-regulation and self esteem. When these skills are integrated, growth in language skills is possible!
Talk Yoga is a fun and engaging way to teach speech and language skills. Therapists are meeting the child where they are at, which is often on the floor! This approach to therapy is exciting for the therapists as well, and our clients see and feel that. The essence of Talk Yoga is to express, play, and learn!
For more information, or to connect with Talk Yoga, please visit:
You can find a list of certified TalkYoga instructors in your area HERE,
Plus, so much more like information to webinars, freebies, etc.
Join us every Monday throughout February
featuring Sunflower Speech Therapy Dr. T’s Lola Koala Adventure Activity Kits, The Sensory Studio and Better Speech.com.
Join the SPEAKING OF APRAXIA Facebook Community.
For more resources, Q&As, podcasts, more, see the SPEAKING OF APRAXIA page on this website.
ABOUT THE SLPS: Kim Hughes, M.A., CCC-SLP (right) is an ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist with 16 years of experience working with children, teenagers, and adults. She received her Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology at The George Washington University in 2000. Her passion is treating children with language disorders, ADHD, ASD, and Dyslexia. She has seen great therapeutic benefits for her students by incorporating movement, play, yoga, and sensory activities into her therapy sessions. Kim has been practicing yoga for 20 years and is certified as a children’s yoga teacher through the Budding Yogis program. A mother of two preteens, Kim began teaching them yoga in the womb and has continued bonding with them by getting into silly or challenging yoga poses and listening to nature and animal meditations together. She is grateful to have the opportunity through Talk Yoga to help strengthen communication and connection among parents and their children. She believes yoga can build self-esteem, strength, and inner beauty. When Kim isn’t doing yoga, you can find her in the garden or walking in the woods. She lives in Kensington, Maryland, with her husband, two children, and dog, Mojo.
Amy Roberts, M.S., CCC-SLP (left) is an ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist with over 10 years of experience in the field. She received her Master’s degree in Speech and Language Therapy at the University of Utah in 2004. Her passion is treating children with articulation disorders and she has loved incorporating yoga concepts such as pranayama and asana practice into her therapy sessions. She has been practicing yoga since her early college years and recently received her 200 hour training certification from Yoga District in Washington D.C. As a mother of three, and wife of an Army Ophthalmologist, yoga has kept her grounded and at peace in her ever changing life. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to share her love of yoga with children and families and her desire to help children understand the power of communication. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband and three children.
ABOUT YOUR HOST:
Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Mary Kubica to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.
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[All images of TalkYoga courtesy of Kim Huges and Amy Roberts or retrieved from their website 2.19.21. Other images, unless noted, from L.Lindsay’s personal archives.]