Sit in a circle — kids with parents on one mat or each on their own next to each other. Encourage everyone to participate at their level of ability, and do something centering, like a name song, a chant, or an ice breaker.
Warm up everyone’s brains as well as bodies
Brain Gym movements can help all our brains get online. Incorporate simple self-regulation practices. There’s a yoga practice called Thoppukaranam (Western science coined it “Super Brain Yoga”). Research has shown improved attention and reduced anxiety after practicing these yogic squats.
Let the kids shine!
Give each child an opportunity to choose a pose or card and teach. Give them the spotlight, if they want it. Who can sit still even for a second? Pick them and let them choose what to teach.
Really look for the opportunities — even for half a second. Every kid should of course eventually be given a turn, but this will motivate those who have a harder time and give them lots of chances to practice. Give them a chance to pass as well.
Keep it fun and be sweet
Do not worry about correcting postures or anything. Keep your sequencing simple and familiar. Show rather than telling. Offer encouraging comments only!
Remember that many autistic kids get corrected all day long. They will be more likely to see their practice as a haven if you shower them with appreciation for whatever effort you observe. Each of us is doing our best in the moment. Partner poses with parent/child duos may be fun. Yoga Freeze Dance is a great way to discharge energy or recover from an unsuccessful moment.
Keep relaxation time short
Relaxation may look like rolling around on the floor or wrapping up in the mat like a burrito. This is great feedback for anyone’s nervous system. Parents and kids can take turns giving each other shoulder rubs during savasana (reclined relaxation). You can also try a guided visualization or play music.
End with a simple song or chant
Singing or chanting tones the vagus nerve and sparks joy! Don’t worry about who is or isn’t joining you, just model the song or chant from your heart.
Have a blast!
Laugh together. Maybe you will see that the kids or their parents are calmer after class. Maybe you will see them shine. You may never know the benefit your class has on the families who attend. That’s OK since inclusive family yoga isn’t something you will do for validation. It will be an extension of your yoga practice, and you will learn so much.