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Special Yoga Class Helps Families Dealing With Autism

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — April is World Autism Awareness Month — when you’ll being seeing lots of blue. The campaign, Light It Up Blue, is designed to show support for people living with autism. That’s also the goal of a special class given for families and people dealing with autism.

The CDC now estimates 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum. They often have trouble with social interaction.

While there’s no cure, early diagnosis and treatment can be very helpful.

“Reach your arms up, feel the extension in your spine. Inhale. Come back to center.”

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There is a sensory-friendly yoga class at Lifetime Fitness in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. It’s designed for people on the autism spectrum and their families.

“The music will be a little bit softer and the lights will be not too bright, but not too dark,” said Lisa Gonzalez, a yoga instructor and the mother of a little boy who’s autistic.

“He has some social anxieties and some behavioral issues,” Gonzalez said.

Kyle is 8 and he knows exactly how the sensory-friendly yoga class helps him.

“I like yoga because it helps me calm down,” Kyle said.

Gonzalez says the special yoga class can help children with autism better cope with being self-conscious and anxious.

“Studies that have shown that the breathing techniques help with their anxieties,” she said.

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Gonzalez says breathing is a primary focus in the sensory-friendly classes – which helps with focus and calmness.

“We really want to raise awareness,” said Jennifer Stypinski with Autism Speaks.

She says sensory-friendly yoga is among many special activities planned for World Autism Month.

“We want to show that there are different events in the community that people on the autism spectrum can participate in that are geared specifically towards them,” Stypinski said, “and that are friendly to the sensitivities they may have being on the autism spectrum.”

For Kyle, he now knows a variety of yoga positions — and has one favorite.

“Happy baby pose,” he said, “because I’m happy.”

The color blue was selected for the campaign Light It Up Blue because more boys are diagnosed with autism than girls — and for the month a number of buildings are being lit in blue to help raise awareness.

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