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It is known that physical activities are an essential part of having a satisfactory quality of life. Activities encourage forming social interactions, enhance self-worth, and strengthen biological functions. This is especially true for children with special needs. Even further, according to the U.S Department of Health & Human Services, the benefits of physical activities for persons with disabilities are immeasurable: ranging from improving psychological issues such as anxiety and depression, improving joint pain and swelling discomforts, and decreasing the chance of getting colon cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure (Persons with Disabilities).
Nonetheless, there are some barriers to engaging in physical activities. According to a scholarly study, factors include ” child’s lack of interest (43%), lack of developmentally appropriate programs (33%), too many behavioral problems (32%), and parents’ lack of time (29%)”(Yazdani et al., 2013). However, the study concluded that it all boils down to the parental physical activity and lifestyle, which reflects on how much their child would contribute in physical activities regardless of the barriers (Yazdani et al., 2013).
Activities that includes both the parent and the child are ideal. The child would have the emotional support they need and a role model to follow. Ultimately resulting in a healthy and happy life.

Citations
Persons with Disabilities | Surgeon General Report | CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/disab.htm

Yazdani, S., Yee, C. T., & Chung, P. J. (2013). Factors predicting physical activity among children with special needs. Preventing Chronic Disease, 10E119.

On Saturday, July 8th, National Integrative Wellness and Resource Center hosted a wonderful workshop at Seven Oaks Lavender Farm which they entitled, “Journey to Relaxation.” During their “journey”, all participants got to pick a beautiful bouquet of lavender whilst drinking their favorite teas. The sunny, picturesque field served as a perfect place to hold a gathering. Upon arriving at the farm food was set up and smiles were shared as attendees introduced themselves. Sounds relaxing, right? On top of that, they got to enjoy a picnic at the lavender farm while getting to learn many different self-massage techniques.

Not only was the workshop very relaxing, but eye-opening too. The event began with guest speaker Niki Johnson who talked to our group about her experience with alcohol. After a night of partying, Niki was involved in a drunk driving accident which left her with brain damage. Instead of focusing on the negative Niki decided to turn her accident into a teachable moment. While Niki normally speaks to warn others about the horrors of drinking and driving, our group took more from her talk and the horror of alcohol itself. Many people drink to relax and leave their troubles behind them however, alcohol is not good for the body and almost never leads to positive outcomes. It was clear the message was certainly do not drink and drive, but also not to choose alcohol in the first place, since very rarely do good things come of it. Instead, choose herbal teas because good things do come of it: relaxation and mindfulness. Niki then shared a beautiful poem that she wrote herself, showing some insight into her experiences, and everyone felt very lucky to hear it. It was an inspiring and uplifting speech!

After listening to Niki’s story the group got relaxing herbal tea and headed into the field to pick some lavender. After picking lavender we had the opportunity to soak our feet in water with essential oil, sea salt, and flowers. The foot bathes were a great way to destress after a day in the sun, but that wasn’t the end of the event! The soles of the feet contain a large number of nerve endings that are connected to the rest of your body. All participants experienced a cold bath that stimulates blood flow when vascular contractions make it easier for blood to circulate throughout the body! Afterwards, participants explored benefits of foot soaks in hot water that is a great way to relax, detox, hydrate your skin, and relieve aches and pains. After foot bathes, the group was lead in a reflexology crash course where we learned about the benefits of using different essential oils and massage as a way to heal and relax the body.

The workshop was a great success and we would love for you to join us at our next event!

National Integrative Wellness and Resource Center gathered at Roer’s Zoofari in Vienna, VA on Saturday July 1st 2017 for a sunny summer “Day at the Zoo!” Friends of all ages met for an afternoon of interaction, laughter, exploration of amazing animals, a birthday celebration with lunch and a special Zoofari bus tour!

As we met, we greeted both old and new friends and jumped right into the fun! As we walked around, we pointed out and remarked on the many exotic and familiar barnyard animals. We enjoyed hand-feeding and petting the friendly goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits and more! Being able to touch, watch, feel, smell and talk about our sensory experiences in action was exhilarating. At every turn, someone was pointing and shouting with enthusiasm, “look over there!” Just when we found a monkey or a fox, there was an exciting new experience around the corner where we found camels, giraffes, parrots and even snakes and spiders in their habitats.

We enjoyed a yummy picnic lunch while talking with friends about their pasts, their interests and what excited them most about their surroundings at the zoo! We even celebrated a special birthday with song, treats and presents. A strong summer storm blew through and soon revealed beautiful blues, grays, whites and bright yellow sunshine with some sun-showers. A few of our friends even got a little wet and cooled off in the summer mist and rain, which was welcomed and refreshing!

We were fortunate to have a private bus tour on the beautiful grounds while the bus stopped multiple times allowing us to reach out the windows to pet and snap close up pictures of llamas, buffalo, watsui, emus, zebra, deer and many more beautiful and peaceful creatures!

As we parted ways, we hugged, laughed and thanked all our friends for a fun, explorative and exciting day at the zoo, looking forward to the next event hosted by Your Sunshine where we we could share kindness and warmth as we explore, learn and grow individually and together!

Many people in the world have special needs and disabilities. Often disabilities arise from brain and nervous system dysfunctions. These changes can be caused by genetic mutations and/or tetragons, which are factors that lead to the malformation of an embryo. Even small changes to brain structure and genetic makeup can lead to one developing a disability. Research has found that many patients with learning disabilities have structural differences in their brains when compared to neurotypical people.

Numerous structural differences that have been found between those with disabilities and those with “normal brains.” Researchers have discovered that the amount of grey and white matter can be different in people with impairments. People with dyslexia have less grey and white matter in the left parietotemporal area, which is involved in comprehending written and spoken languages, leading to language deficits. Kids with ADHD and other attention disorders also have differences in their brains. Their frontal lobes, which control behavior, decision-making, and emotions are often smaller and wired differently. The parietal lobes which have been found to support math can also be less active in some children with these disorders. These are just a few of the structural difference that can be present in people with disabilities.

Genetics can also play a big role in the development of disabilities. Autism and Down Syndrome are two disorders that occur as a result of genetic defects. Scientists think it is likely that a couple of genes interact to cause Autism, as they have not been able to pinpoint a single cause. Children who have relatives with Autism are more susceptible to the disorder, hinting at its genetic basis. Down syndrome also has a genetic basis as the majority of Down syndrome cases are caused by trisomy 21, where an individual has three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two. These minor changes to the genetic makeup of individuals cause them to go on to have a wide range of disabilities, and often the same mistake does not lead to the exact same disability in varying individuals. While science has come a long way, there is still much we do not know about these disorders.

Recently neuroplasticity, the capability of the brain to rewire itself and form new neural connections, has become a big topic in the Neuroscience community. The brain’s plasticity has many implications, an important one being the potential to improve the symptoms of various disabilities. In order to form new connections, one has to constantly work to strengthen them. While changing the brain takes a lot of time and hard work it is possible. In order to establish change the brain has to be in the right state. It has been found that the more incentivized one is to cause change the more change will be seen. While neuroplasticity is not a hard and fast cure for disabilities it is a potential way to alleviate symptoms and could help to open the door for new treatment options.

While those with special needs face some limitations they are also gifted in many areas. Those with disabilities often think in novel ways as they have a unique perspective on the world that those without disabilities do not have. This perspective allows them to interact with the world in a method that allows hidden talents to surface. One example of this is many individuals with autism have different niches and special abilities. Recently an autistic artist, Stephen Wiltshire, went viral for his ability to draw major cities completely from memory. Derek Paraviccini has learning impairments and is completely blind but even still he is a musical genius. These two people are not exceptions, and it is not only those with autism who have special talents. While more research needs to be done to figure out what causes these hidden abilities in those with disabilities it is clear that our friends with special needs are very talented.

This summer has been full of adventures for local nonprofit National Integrative Wellness and Resource Center. During the month of July National Integrative Wellness and Resource Center hosted awesome events that helped to bring joy and a sense of community to a lot of people. These events included a trip to the zoo, a trip to a lavender field, free community yoga cases, meditation, classes, summer camps for kids, and events with guest speakers Nikki and Alena.

A lot of the events put on by National Integrative Wellness and Resource Center are for those with special needs as their organization is devoted to improving the lives of those with disabilities. Not only are the events a great way for those with special needs to get out of the house and have fun, they often provide wonderful life lessons as well. The yoga and meditation classes teach valuable skills that have many health benefits. During the trip to the lavender farm participants got a crash course in reflexology and the importance of relaxation. The two guest speakers this month Nikki Johnson and Alena Butkevica both survived near death experiences and shared what is was like to undergo and cope with their ordeal.
July has been a fantastic month for National Integrative Wellness and Resource Center and August is sure to be the same. If you are interested in participating in any of these activities your presence would be enjoyed greatly. National Integrative Wellness and Resource Center has a very welcoming community and all are welcome. Hope to see you soon!

National Integrative Wellness Center, based in Alexandria VA, is a nonprofit organization offering programs aimed at instructing special needs individuals in order to empower them and unlock their uniques skills and potentials’. Among the various programs that will be offered this spring is Adapted Sunshine Yoga and Mindfulness. The sessions, adapted for students with special needs, will be taught by organization president and founder Anastasia Martynova.

As a certified (kids, adults, and special needs) yoga instructor, Ms. Martynova is committed to guiding students through experiencing the deep meaning behind yoga practices. Her goal through her organization’s programs is to give each student the tools for self-acceptance and self-love. Having grown up as a child with special needs herself, Martynova gained significant insights through her experiences. She thus has a particular understanding of and dedication towards children and youth with special needs. Martynova sees the importance of looking beyond limitations in order to reach one’s full potential. She is devoted to delivering her organization’s programs to help special needs individuals develop their talents and skills, highlight their self-worth, live well and productively, and feel the support of community.

The adapted yoga and mindfulness sessions includes a sequence of yoga poses (all of which modifications are offered for), breathing techniques, color therapy, self-massage, positive self-talk therapy, and mindful relaxation techniques. The aim of these techniques is for all students to achieve the benefits, such as mind-body alignment and improved stamina and balance, that these practices cultivate.

Other special needs programs offered by Your Sunshine include dance and movement therapy, social skills groups, conquering anxiety, and back to nature.

More information on National Integrative Wellness Center’s classes and events can be found at www.niwcr.org or on the organization Facebook page. Those wishing to sign up for Adaptive Yoga and Mindfulness (or any other classes) can contact National Integrative Wellness and Resource Center by phone at (202) 317-0496 or via email at info@niwcr.org.

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