Linda Carofano, Program Director

I meet a lot of amazing kids in my work. But you know you sometimes meet a child who finds their way into your heart at first sight? Well, Archer was one of them.

I first met Archer towards the end of 2015, when I was a speech therapist by day and a yoga teacher by night. At 3 years old, he just radiated warmth and love.

Archer’s tricky start

Archer was born with very low muscle tone, so he couldn’t feed properly and was prone to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. He had eating issues and was prone to aspirating liquids, so he was being fed thickened fluids through a feeding tube.

Because Archer had spent a lot of his early years in hospital, his speech and language development was very limited. He was over three years old but he had severe language delays and was struggling to sit still and focus on anything.

Archer also had a very loving older sister, Mya, who attended a mainstream school nearby.

First things first, a personal approach to speech and language therapy

Archer and I embarked straight away on a personalised speech and language programme. We had weekly speech sessions, focusing on Archer’s pronunciation, his vocabulary and his ability to put words together: extending him past his comfort zone, gently and with humour. I regularly visited him at his childcare centre and kindy, training his SSO to implement some of the speech strategies we had been using.

The yoga connection

It wasn’t long before I noticed that Archer’s low muscle tone affected not only his physical abilities, but also his speech and language. I knew straight away that yoga would be helpful to him, and within a week he started coming to our weekly family yoga classes, along with his Mum and his older sister, Mya.

Soon enough Archer started to bring his yoga thinking to our speech sessions: he would often use yoga breathing, visualisations and mindfulness, meaning he was more able to sit and listen, and he had much more confidence. It was then I knew there had to be a special connection between yoga and speech and language therapy.

Archer and Mya get their flamingos on.

Yoga plus speech and language therapy: a two-way street

And of course speech and language therapy makes a difference on the yoga mat, too. I realised that I had always used speech techniques and language stimulation in my yoga class and this was part of the reason the kids in our classes (from 3 years old to thirteen) had always been so engaged, focused and committed to working hard.

Side stretch increases core strength and muscle tone.

Archer in 2017

As I write this, Archer is doing brilliantly. He’s a different child to the one I met in 2015.

He’s just started mainstream school (when I first met him, it was highly unlikely that this would happen): he now loves school, can listen to instructions and will happily sit at a table and focus on his work. His vocabulary has gone through the roof and he is acquiring all the right age-appropriate literacy skills: he can recognise and write several sounds,including his name. He hasn’t had one respiratory infection since he started yoga, and no hospitalisations either, despite having weathered two South Australian winters over this time. Now when I look at Archer I se a confident, happy, resilient little boy, willing to give things a go and simply loving life.

The future

Archer and I will continue with his fortnightly speech sessions for a term or so, to make sure he integrates well into his new school, and I will work with his teacher to ensure the environment is appropriately set up for his needs. I don’t think he’ll need me for much longer!

Lessons learned from a little boy

Archer really helped me see the relationship between children’s physical, emotional, speech and language development; and helped me understand how yoga can enhance all of it. He also helped me properly understand the powerful link between speech and language therapy and yoga, and the amazing things that can happen when you combine the two.

I’ve learned that the relationship between speech and yoga is a two-way street. Yoga delivers improved respiratory health, which is vital for speech. And in yoga, because you’re focused on the body while the mind is still, the speech and language therapy goes much deeper. I’m not just talking about killing two birds with one stone: I’m talking about the ripple effect you get when you combine two disciplines and create something ten times more powerful.

Archer has helped me believe in myself, and shone a light on the magic than can happen when you combine speech and language therapy with yoga. Above all, he’s taught me that perseverance and a positive attitude can get you anywhere.

Want to know more?

At Master the Mountain we are changing the lives of kids like Archer all over Australia. Contact us to learn more about the work that we’re doing.

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