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Yoga for kids offered at St. Lawrence Centre

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MASSENA - As the mother of an autistic child, Debora A. Donatto relishes the moments when her son can be at ease playing and interacting with other children.

To help create more of those moments, Ms. Donatto is now running a children’s yoga group from 2 to 3 p.m. each Sunday at St. Lawrence Centre.

“I’ve been running a play group for kids with autism since my son was 3 and he’s 11 now,” she said, adding parents who attend the support group she also runs often bring their children along too.

“We found the kids who came to the support group meetings really clicked,” she said. “It must have been something about their personalities. They can just play and feel comfortable with each other.”

Socialization doesn’t always come easy for children with autism. “We (support group members) decided we really wanted an opportunity to get the kids together as often as possible,” she said. “One of the children is home schooled, so he really doesn’t have a social circle outside of his family.”

Support group meetings are held from 6 to 8 p.m. the third Monday of each month at the New Testament Church, but those meetings and the once monthly playgroup meetings just weren’t enough, she said.

“We decided we really wanted to get the kids together on a regular basis,” Ms. Donatto said, adding there are other benefits to the group in addition to giving the children the opportunity to socialize and play with their friends.

“This is beneficial to them in terms of stretching, breathing, dealing with anxiety, learning to focus and have fun too,” she said. “I think it’s great for the kids to have something positive and this gets them thinking about their own personal power.”

While the classes were formed with autistic children in mind, Ms. Donatto said they are open to all school-aged children.

“My nine year old and all her friends want to participate too,” she said, adding parents are asked to drop their kids off at the former Hallmark store, where the class is held, just before 2 p.m.

“I wanted a place where the parents could drop their kids off,” she said. “I don’t think the kids would participate as much if all of their parents were there.”

To help encourage participation, Ms. Donatto said they have competitions with prizes awarded.

“They can learn breathing techniques and maybe use them before they react. If they can learn to do that, it will help them all through life,” she said, adding the yoga techniques she teaches are also beneficial in school and on the athletic field, should the children play sports.

“It’s really good for school and will help with tests, as they’ll be learning to breathe and relax,” she said. “It’s good for sports too and just helping get them off on the right foot.”

The classes are held each Sunday now through Nov. 18.

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