Pilates and Kids with Disabilities

Incorporating Pilates with Disabilities

It is a myth that Pilates cannot be performed by a person with a physical disability or injury. The reality is quite the opposite. Pilates was and is implemented as a physical alternative therapy in various rehabilitation centres. Most people picture aerobics or high intensity movements when Pilates is discussed, however, there are more than 500 Pilates exercises and most of them have smooth movements and can be performed without standing or sitting.

Whether a child has succumbed to a disability by birth or as a result of an accident, Kids Pilates with M.E. can speed up the healing process and facilitate their recovery. It is a tool that strengthens the core and enables them to achieve self-awareness. The function of Pilates doesn’t really change for patients with disabilities. In fact, the Pilates spine corrector exercises can reduce back pain and improve the flexibility of the spine – Pilates strengthens the core muscles and the muscles surrounding the core and this goes for all individuals who have back problems or spinal injuries.

In a person without a disability, every movement is initiated and controlled by their trunks. Joseph Pilates realised this a century ago and devised an exercise routine exclusively for the core strength and flexibility. Here are some reasons why Pilates is an excellent choice of rehab therapy for everyone especially a person with a disability.

  • Stabilises and Strengthens the Core: Almost half of the Pilates mat exercises are performed with stomach muscles. The smooth and co-ordinated movements improve circulation. Ultimately the posture is improved, and the person has more ease in sitting straight and independent.

  • Standing is not required: Since most Pilates exercises can be performed while sitting or lying on the bed, it’s an excellent choice for anyone who hates to get out of bed just to exercise or for anyone that is not able to get out of bed – It’s safe to try some Pilate’s exercises when you are on the bed. For those with bone injuries, the road to recovery is long and quite painful but Pilates is an art of healing that can relieve this pain without the individual having to stand or take awkward positions to perform them.

  • Relieves Stress from Pressure Points: Some Pilates exercises are aimed at relieving stress from pressure points. These are regions where a muscle loses their flexibility. For instance if a person remains seated for long durations, the muscles around the lower spine get stiff. In case of people with disabilities, the spine needs correction. Pilates offers flexibility to the muscles surrounding the spine. This improves posture and relieves pain from pressure regions. Only by correct breathing and co-ordinated movements, stress can be relieved from various pressure points.

What I do:

Kids Pilates with M.E. helps benefits children in many ways, from boosting physical fitness to increasing concentration in the classroom. But leading a Pilate’s class of children can pose interesting challenges for the Instructor. Kids are less likely to stay still, or to follow detailed instructions, or to understand high-level fitness lingo.

Make it a Game

I turn Pilates into a game to keep up interest levels. Instead of Simon Says, try Pilates Says to get kids into poses.

Identify Role Models

For older kids, 12-16 years old, I could activate interest in Pilates by identifying some popular athletes or sports figures that do Pilates. This age group also has the ability to do real Pilates—they can concentrate and maintain focus in a way that younger kids simply can’t.

Harness the Energy

I help direct some of that natural energy children possess by incorporating cardiovascular exercises into the program, such as running in place, jumping jacks or pretending to jump rope. Keeping the group moving keeps their energy controlled. I improvise to make it work for the children.

Take it Easy

There is no right or wrong in the class as every individual body is different. This is not a boot camp and we remember that kids do not use perfect form, and they like to fall and so classes are not too rigid and the I the children be themselves and have fun.

Save the Breath for Last

I also work on the children’s breathing, educating them on how to do it properly. This will help them calm down from the all the exercise and is a nice way to end our classes.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterised, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviours. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues. Some individuals with ASD can excel in visual skills, music, math and art. Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder characterised by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour.

While a child without autism will develop in many areas at a relatively harmonious rate, this may not be the case for a child with autism. His/her cognitive skills may develop fast, while their social and language skills trail behind. On the other hand, his/her language skills may develop rapidly while their motor skills don’t. They may not be able to catch a ball as well as the other children, but could have a much larger vocabulary. Nonetheless, the social skills of a person with autism will not develop at the same pace as other people.

Pilates helps with both movement and environmental transitions, two of the biggest challenges children with autism face. Transitions are an obstacle children with autism face both inside and outside of the classroom.  In addition to the sensory issues these children have, it is often hard for them to sit and listen for extended periods of time.  The therapeutic approach to helping children with sensory and attention issues, involves the application of strengthening a child’s motor coordination and muscle development. PowerKids Pilates integrates both the proprioceptive (the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement) and vestibular (the sensory system that provides the leading contribution to the sense of balance and spatial orientation for the purpose of coordinating movement with balance) movements that a child with autism needs to regulate his/her activity level.

Proprioceptive therapy usually entails stretching and contracting the muscles. Activities such as pushing and pulling with one’s own body strength help to increase the child’s body awareness. It creates the sense of alertness and decreases anxiety, allowing for the child’s brain to be prepared to learn and not be fidgety during long periods of time.

Pilates in general has a bit of vestibular stimulation in its regular routine. Vestibular activities such as swinging, jumping, and gliding help improve the attention span of the child as they have to concentrate on their balance and coordination. When they do such activities, they are able to retain more information, thus allowing them to complete a task.

Each individual with autism is unique and therefore private classes are suggested rather than group classes. The child then receives the one on one treatment which is needed without any extra distractions and the instructor can concentrate on developing an exercise routine revolving around that child’s specific needs and level of autism.

During adolescence, some children with ASD may become depressed or experience behavioural problems, and their treatment may need some modification as they transition into adulthood. People with ASD usually continue to need services and supports as they get older, but depending on severity of the disorder, people with ASD may be able to work successfully and live independently or within a supportive environment. At my Pilates studio, I aim to become one of those services and supportive environments that provide the support needed for your child to increase their quality of life and to help decrease their symptoms where possible. There is no cure for ASD and most health care professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better. It is for this reason that I believe in working with children at a young age and helping them gain a better body-mind connection, will help improve their state of being, mentally, socially and physically.

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I will assess your child and recommend where they should start

Studio Address

Office Studios.
1 Flanders Drive, The Homestead,
Mount Edgecombe,
Durban, 3629

Contact ME

Phone: 083-2989-527