I recently came across a “new to me” idea for teaching kids with disabilities while searching educational methods that might help my daughter, Bethany, who is an autistic brain tumor survivor, learn better.
It’s called Daily Life Therapy, which is apparently an innovative, holistic approach to teaching autistic children and young adults!
It was first established in 1964 when Dr. Kiyo Kitahara began using her method to teach her kindergarten classes in Tokyo, Japan.
Her ideas quickly spread throughout Japan and then eventually made it all the wayacross the ocean to Boston in 1987.
The three key components or “pillars” of the Daily Life Therapy method are:
- Building physical stamina: The theory is that vigorous exercise can help regulate biological rhythms thus benefiting physical health, mood, awareness of one’s surroundings, and one’s ability to concentrate.
- Promoting emotional stability: Teachers form a tight emotional bond with their students which promotes trust and emotional soundness.
- Providing intellectual stimulation: Students are provided with a broad based, age appropriate curriculum.
It seems to me that while good and effective on their own, most other methods of teaching children with autism focus solely on teaching academics and life skills.
Most do not even consider the importance and benefits of incorporating movement and exercise into a student’s educational program, despite the fact that Dr. Temple Grandin repeatedly stresses the importance of autistic kids getting enough physical exercise.
When Bethany was having so much trouble all those years with debilitating seizures, it was difficult, but not altogether impossible to ensure her emotional well being and keep her brain somewhat stimulated.
However, it was impossible for her to get up off of the couch to do much of anything even remotely physical.
But, I can with all honestly and much enthusiasm attest to the fact that as soon as Bethany’s seizures were under better control and we were able to get her involved in all the fun fitness activities at Flash Club and the YMCA, not only did her physical stamina improve, but so did her emotional health and her ability to learn!
So to say that I am excited about a teaching approach that addresses the students emotional and physical well being, as well as academics and life skills is a huge understatement!
My only disappointment is that according to their website, presently this approach is only being utilized in day programs or residential programs at just two campuses in the entire world: one being in Boston and the other being in Japan.
It would be awesome if they eventually make resources available for creating home programs using this method.
I plan to do a little more research into this exciting new autism educational method to see how I might incorporate some of its key ideas into Bethany’s homeschool program!
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*A version of this post was first published in March 2016.