As always my lovely readers I love bringing you new blog posts and this latest one I am especially excited about. Meet Jess, Jess is a friend of mine who has found her calling in life and started her own Kids Yoga Therapy business. Her story is very inspiring and I urge anyone looking for their purpose in life or needing a push to strive for more to read on. I am so happy for her but also extremely proud that vulnerable children such as those who have experienced trauma or those with special needs now have another advocate! So please enjoy my interview with Jess and show her some love over on Instagram and Facebook.
1 - Please introduce yourself and what you do.
I am Jessica Lee. I grew up in a coastal town, Port Macquarie, and since leaving at 18 years old I have been on many adventures, most of which included a plane flight, packing far too many clothes than I actually needed and terrible walking shoes – when will I learn!? Next time, next time for sure.
I would say that travel has been a dominant aspect of my identity so far and I am grateful for this. I have experienced many cultures which has led to my appreciation for diversity and a developed sense of personal power as you need to depend on yourself when travelling. My goals for each adventure have often been the same, to feel alive, to connect with others on a deep and meaningful level and to embrace the diversity of the world we live in. On reflection, it still amazes me how easy these goals were achieved and in extreme measures while in foreign countries, and yet I was finding it difficult to achieve this back home – an issue which I believe many can relate too. Although our world is moving at a rate we can hardly keep up with, our yearning for genuine connection is ever-present. This yearning is one which I have begun taking very seriously in the last 6 months and although the catch-cry, ‘only you can make yourself happy’ is thrown around like hot potato, unless you FEEL it to be true, and are READY for it to be true, it will never be.
Another dominant aspect of my life has been the need for knowledge, the desire for solutions, and the belief that we can always be better. I not only believe this for myself, but was determined to help the adults and children I worked with believe it too. As a Social Worker, I have connected with people who have absolutely no reason to believe their situation could get better, but here I was, determined to alter this view. So instead of reading the Twilight series I read books about neuroscience, trauma, child development, and mindfulness, because the more I knew, the better chance I had in guiding people to find their reason and a sense of hope for their future.
The most proud and fulfilling aspect of my life to date has been my personal quest for inner-peace and contentment. For those of you who get as excited as me about self-development you’ll know it’s hard bloody work and involves a lot of tears! For me, the journey of self-development has led to a transformational mindset! One which now chooses faith over fear and love over hate. I now have a faith, a faith in the universe and it’s energy. To say this out loud is daunting for me because for so many years I have been living in the shadows of my true SELF. I am happy to say that after many podcasts, books, time spent in nature, time spent feeling alone and isolated and forced to find a way out, time spent suffering from anxiety, time travelling, I have found the confidence to just be ME and it simply feels liberating.
Out of this journey Kids Yoga Therapy was created. I am able to work with the most vulnerable children and their families and provide tools and strategies that begin altering their minds and bodies. Yoga and meditation are so powerful when you commit to them that the inconceivable outcomes start to become possible. My programs usually run for 9 weeks which is long enough to begin building concentration, releasing built-up tension, increasing self-confidence and reducing anxiety. My role within the 9 weeks is not only to support the child, but to support the parents/carers. Parents/carers are often exhausted when they call me that they need self-care strategies as well. It’s also important that parents feel confident in continuing yoga and meditation with their child after I leave as creating long-term change takes time – longer than 9 weeks.
2 - Why did you start Kids Yoga Therapy?
I have spent most of my career working within Foster Care which meant working with the most vulnerable children there can be. I absolutely loved this job! I loved forming connections with these children and their carers and supporting the home environment. However, when speaking with my carers, rarely did they express that their child was being given opportunities to simply BE and strategies to calm their mind and exit out of their constant state of fight/flight – sometimes a child cannot even calm their minds within their foster home despite having supportive and loving carers. I knew within the core of my being that I had something to offer these children but needed time to figure it out.
Whilst in the U.K in 2017 visiting a friend, and after many, many chocolate biscuits and cups of tea, she said “why don’t you combine everything you love and are passionate about?” This in my case was neuroscience, trauma, child development, yoga and meditation.
With this simple question, my head began to spin and my heart beat began to race and there it was. The idea I had been waiting for. The idea that would have me returning to Australia far earlier than expected because I just couldn’t wait in making this fabulous idea a reality – I decided then and there that Kids Yoga Therapy would be created to use the calming, joyful and purposeful practice of Yoga Therapy to begin a much needed REVOLUTION in the way we heal and transform the lives of children.
3 - What do you hope to achieve for 2018?
My goal for 2018 is to bring a renewed sense of hope within the most stressed and desperate families. The heartbreaking aspect of my role is when I see a huge disconnect between parents and their children. Children are unable to explain their thoughts and emotions, and parents are simply exhausted and have no idea what to try next. The medical model is simply not providing the answers for all families and I firmly believe that alternative interventions, such as yoga and meditation, are the way forward. There is a reason why yoga studios are on every street corner and I believe it is now time to bring this empowering experience to our children.
On a practical level, the hours I can reach children are quite limited due to school hours. If Kids Yoga Therapy is going to reach as many children as possible then online programs and resources will need to be created for parents/carers, teachers and support workers, and this is another goal of mine for 2018.
4 - How can we better understand the need for special needs therapy and spread the word?
During my time as a Social Worker and in my current role, I am constantly reminded by parents of the lack of support services and therapy options for children with special needs other than medication, an occupational therapist and a psychologist. Only last week I was told by a parent that despite her 9 year old son with ADHD and Autism having contact with a Psychiatrist, additional support services have not been mentioned or discussed. This is simply not good enough. A diagnosis does not give us a black and white indication of what the child needs to live their best life possible. We can have 5 children diagnosed with an Attachment Disorder or Autism, and the experiences of these children, or the behaviours the children exhibit are entirely different. Ensuring parents have a wide range of service options is my goal. It is crucial that parents have options for their child to suit their very unique and individual needs.
I believe the first step in creating change in the area of special needs therapies is to first be willing to pause and think critically about information you receive about special needs, either from other parents or health professionals, and that includes me. Conversations that include what a child needs, or doesn’t need, should know, shouldn’t worry about should be considered critically and with reflection. We are bombarded with information every day. Often it doesn’t matter if this information is true or false, if it’s said enough we end up believing it to be true. Our ability to pause and take 2 seconds to consider the information presented to us increases the chance of our opinion being ours, instead of dominant ideology. When we don’t meet children where they are at, they can never be found.
Once we can accept that difference is more likely than similarities in the field of special needs, or children in general for that matter, then demands for therapy options will begin to increase. I believe it has already started. I am overwhelmed by the supportive comments from people I meet in the community regarding Kids Yoga Therapy and it’s vision. People are tired of a one-size-fits-all approach, and if we start to express this with our friends, families, support workers, school principals and teachers, and anyone else you have access to, change is inevitable. Kids Yoga Therapy is a prime example of this. I listened and listened until I felt the overwhelming desire to provide a solution.
I also believe the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a huge opportunity for parents to have their voices heard. Parents will have the choice of services or therapies for their child. I hope parents use this opportunity to do their research, find the service or therapy option that they believe will benefit their child, even if it’s not part of the mainstream medical model. Your choices will inform organisations, therapeutic services, and practitioners of the need for more choice.
5 - How are you looking forward to using the "My Feelings Matter" book with your clients?
I absolutely love Sara's feelings book and I love using it with the children I work with. During my private sessions I allow the child to select a picture or feeling they want to focus on and the poses and mediations I then select will all relate to that theme. I find providing the child with something visual, like the book, they become more excited and focused about the topic of feelings rather than being asked to name an emotion - which can be met with a face saying "what are you on about lady?".
6 - Where can we find out more about your services?
If you would like to find out more about Kids Yoga Therapy, please visit www.kidsyogatherapy.com.au and subscribe to receive event information and helpful tips. I have a number of workshops coming up and will be speaking at a number of conferences which you will be given the details of.
I’d love for you to join the Kids Yoga Therapy (KYT) Community group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/123834968475335/
It is a new group and my intention is to create a supportive and inclusive network of like-minded parents where feeling stuck, lonely, or lost when it comes to parenting your child is a think of the past.
If you are interested in program options for your child, please contact me on 0403 270 367 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be more than happy to conduct a Needs Assessment with you over the phone and determine if Kids Yoga Therapy could be an option for your child.