WEST CARROLLTON, Ohio (WDTN) – West Carrollton City Schools has added meditation and yoga to the curriculum for special needs students to help them deal with emotions and stress. 

“So many of our kids because of their sensory issues have really big feelings, but they don’t always know how to label those feelings or process them, so I think this is a great outlet for them,” said Intervention Specialist Lara Kearney who teaches the meditation part of the class. 

The program started in 2019, and teachers said it’s made a difference. 

“All of our students are coming from very different backgrounds, and very different home lives, and a lot of them talk about coming into school with anxiety,” said Intervention Specialist Briana Rix who teaches the yoga portion of the class. “We think that starting their day off like this and kind of working through some of that anxiety and giving them some tools that it helps them kind of self-regulate throughout the day. It appears to give them more self-confidence.”

In a world where they face challenges every day, twice a week students can escape those challenges for about 45 minutes. 

“We’ve noticed they seem to be a little more calm, a little more focused,” said Rix. “I think that especially with our students, it seems that they are so dialed in and plugged in to their technology and their phones – that definitely gives them, you know, some of that break away from all of that technology and social media.”

It might be one of the most important lessons the students learn. 

“To me, it kind of helps me relax, and it helps me with all of my stress,” said senior Zachary Wills. 

While teaching them balance, it also helps them with strength and persistence. 

“I mean, some poses are hard, but at least I try, and that’s all that matters,” said senior Noah Clark with a smile. “The meditation part is good. It can really help calm me down, especially with stress.”

The benefits of the program are far-reaching, helping students physically, mentally and emotionally. 

“I like when I’m sitting here, breathing in and out and trying to exhale and trying to do other poses,” said senior Cece Hamilton. “Some days I need to calm down and stuff.”

It’s not just the students who benefit.

“It’s giving us that time to decompress and take care of ourselves, and then we’re better teachers for the students as well,” said Kearney. “Taking care of mental health is just a passion for me. I’ve suffered from anxiety myself. I think the more you learn how to manage it, to recognize this is a feeling it doesn’t have to control my life, the more you can have quality of life. That’s what I want for my students is just a great quality of life, joy in their life, and peace.”

Both teachers said they would love to expand the program, not just with these students, but getting the whole district involved.