Addington Special School Receives the First ‘Special Mini Me Yoga School Status’ in the U.K.
Blog by Claire Hutchins,
Advanced Ambassador for Mini Me Yoga
I feel so honoured to be able to write this blog for Mini Me Yoga and share with you the amazing yoga journey I have been on over the last 12 months with a school that now has a special place in my heart.
I have been a primary school teacher and Special Needs Co-ordinator for over 25 years now. I enjoyed the challenges of the roles but I knew deep in my heart I wanted to be more creative when working with children. I thought long and hard about the things that gave me JOY in my life (as well as my family and friends) and yoga and music instantly came to my mind when on one Sunday rainy afternoon, I was dancing in diﬀerent poses with my own children, Jack and Lucy and our golden Labrador, Bella joining in too! We had so much fun and knew this experience could be shared with other children too!
I started practising Hatha yoga when I was 16 whilst completing my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award. From then on, I always enjoyed the beneﬁts it had for me physically and mentally. I had always enjoyed learning instruments as a teenager, in particular; the guitar, ukulele, clarinet and piano. So with these two loves, yoga and music, I decided to set up my own company:
CHILLAX KIDS – helping children to chill and relax through a love of yoga and music.
But how was I going to teach kids yoga? Well that was made so easy for me when I found the lovely Dr. Kate Batram-Brown, the founder of Mini Me Yoga. I joined her 2 Hour Foundation workshop in London one cold evening in February 2015 and from the moment she started to share her love of kids yoga and the beneﬁts each of the 7 steps had for children, I was instantly hooked and knew this program had to be part of my teaching and my own personal path to be more creative with children. Kate also introduced me to a local Ambassador in my area, the fabulous, Lisa Walker.
Lisa kindly invited me into her home where I saw her deliver the programme with her amazing 3 children. Seeing the children having the best time ever was the cherry on the cake for me, as I then decided to complete my Ambassador training in all of the 3 programmes with Kate later that year. I had all the tools now to start my journey of teaching kids yoga classes as well as now training adults on how to do it too!
Being an ambassador for Mini Me Yoga the last 18 months has changed my life enormously. I can’t thank our amazing hard-working CEO Ashley Costello enough, as I have loved sharing our 3 programs to a variety of schools across the UK. I feel so privileged that I have been able to do this and meet some amazing people who are now going to carry on with sharing the love and JOY of Mini Me Yoga with children.
As well as going into schools delivering the Mini Me Yoga Programs, I have also had the privilege of working at a special school in Woodley, Reading, Berks called Addington, as a children’s yoga and mindfulness teacher. I taught yoga once a week on a Thursday across the day for 5 hours with different children across the school. This opportunity came about as one of the special needs teachers, the lovely Yvonne Wilson had attended one of my 2 Hour Foundation workshops. We got talking in our local village after she saw me with my Mini Me Yoga t-shirt on! She was intrigued by the symbol on the t-shirt and wanted to know if it was the dog pose on the t-shirt. Anyway, a week later, Yvonne and her son, Samuel who was only a baby at the time joined me at my home to learn the parent and child programme. They both loved it and Yvonne was so keen to get me into her school to share it with the children and staff at Addington School. An opportunity arose in September 2016 for me to be the school’s yoga teacher for a year’ s contract. I was delighted and so grateful for the opportunity.
Addington is an Outstanding Special School for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. All the pupils’ primary need is a learning difﬁculty with almost half also having Autism. All the pupils have an Education and Health Care Plan or a Statement of Special Educational Needs and the school accommodates up to 205 pupils, aged between 3 and 19 year. I was able to follow all of the 7 step Mini Me Yoga Programme in most of my lessons across the academic year and the Explorers booklet was particularly useful in planning my themed classes. The children really responded well to the 4 elements. It was very easy for them to understand the 4 colours and how they matched up to FIRE, EARTH, AIR and WATER. The enlarged laminated A4 cards were fab to have for the visually impaired children plus the small packs of cards for children on a 1:1 yoga session too. The children who have autism liked my rainbow 7 step sheet so they could see what was coming next, and some children liked to tick the steps off as we did them.
For the access children at Addington (those who have physical disabilities, i.e. are in wheelchairs or in beds), we had lots of fun exploring all 28 poses but adapting the poses so they could access it to their ability. All poses can be adapted through smaller arm movements, for example, tree pose using our hands was lovely to see, especially when we created a forest as a small group.
The meditation element of the program, step 6, had a huge impact on the children at Addington. Using a calm voice to read Kate’s visualisation stories was very important and the power of music to signal that meditation was about to start had a huge impact. I also used a singing bowl at the beginning and end of my lessons to help my children realise these indicators of the lessons, plus the children really enjoyed playing the instrument and feeling the vibrations it made too.
The key feature to make the lessons successful for the children was that all the adults who worked with children had all been trained in the 2 Hour Foundation workshop with me. This meant they had such a good understanding of the 7 steps and their enthusiasm and understanding meant they could be good role models for the children and join in with the sessions. During the schools INSET training day that academic year, I had the wonderful opportunity to train over 44 members of staff in our 2 Hour Foundation training programme, 35 members of staff were trained in Meditation and 15 members in Explorers. Over the Summer term, I worked closely with the trained staff to support them on their teaching of the program to the children throughout the school. The teaching I saw, mainly from the TA’s was fantastic, their enthusiasm for mini me yoga was just fabulous.
The school worked incredibly hard to collate the evidence to receive their Accredited School Status at the end of July this year, and we were delighted that Ashley Costello, our CEO could join us and present the TEAM with their Mini Me Yoga plaque. We had a fabulous celebration assembly including a Mini Me Yoga session with the whole school. A lovely visualisation story from Ashley was a lovely ending to the assembly.
So, I am no longer needed at the school to teach kids yoga. It is over to the 44 members of staff who are trained in the programmes and have the tools, to carry on with the love and JOY of Mini Me Yoga to the children at Addington. My own personal yoga teaching continues with new energy now, as I loved graduating last month at the Mini Me Yoga conference with our new Tweenies programme, delivered by Kate. I am really looking forward to sharing this with my ﬁrst secondary school booked in for next month.
If you would like to ﬁnd out any more about my weekly classes in kids yoga and music, or my journey into becoming a Mini Me Yoga Ambassador, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to hear from you.
Telephone: 07738 705676
Facebook: Mini Me Yoga in Henley and Reading
Facebook: Chillax Kids (Music classes)