Meet Jess Mcilveen of Kids Yoga Therapy: an incredible resource for kids with special needs

‘I am here to revolutionise the way we heal and transform the minds and lives of our children and teens with special needs and who’ve been affected by trauma.’ – Jess Mcilveen, Owner of Kids Yoga Therapy

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At mini Nanny Agency we understand the varied dynamics that can exist in different families, including the unique challenges (and joys!) that families with special needs children often face.

That means we are always on the look out for incredible resources for our mini families, and Jess, of Kids Yoga Therapy is one of the best out there! As a social worker and an incredible yogi, she’s tuned into the needs of kids who may struggle with anxiety, have special needs or been affected by trauma.

Here’s Jess’ story.

How did you find yourself as a social worker AND a yoga instructor?

As a child I was surrounded by depression, anxiety, suicide and addiction, which left me feeling helpless. This ultimately led me to becoming a social worker, as I wanted to be the guiding force for children who felt lost and alone.

After a few years working in Child Safety and Foster Care I realised that the services we were using weren’t teaching children techniques that could help them when they felt scared, fearful or angry.

About this time I started to have anxiety and panic attacks, which was utterly terrifying for me. I didn’t want to take medication so I committed to daily meditation and yoga. I was absolutely astounded when after a week and a half the scary sensations disappeared!

While travelling in Italy I came to the realisation that I no longer wanted to be a social worker. One day a friend said to me, ‘Why don’t you do yoga and meditation with the children you want to work with?’ My head began spinning. Could I really do that?

After some intense research, I booked my flights and enrolled in a Children’s Yoga Course. Kids Yoga Therapy was born two months later.

What impact has yoga had in your life?

When I started experiencing panic and anxiety attacks, I was terrified. I couldn’t eat, sleep or function and I was too scared to be alone with my thoughts.

Yoga and meditation absolutely changed my life. Once I started regularly practicing, the scary sensations disappeared. And now, when they show up again, I have tools that I trust and that I know work.

After my experience, I went through all the research available on the impacts of yoga and medication for special needs and trauma and it’s conclusive – it helps!


How do yoga and social work complement each other?

As a social worker I want to empower people to find solutions that work for them so they can live their best life possible, regardless of what they have experienced. Yoga complements this because it’s about finding the solutions within yourself.


How can yoga help kids who suffer from anxiety or trauma, or who have other special needs?

Yoga helps kids by reconnecting them with their bodies and bringing them back to the present moment. Yoga also works with breath, which is crucial in strengthening the relaxation response in the nervous system. This response is weakened when children have experienced trauma or anxiety.

Anxiety is future focussed, so bringing children back to the present moment with their body and breath helps reduce the anxious state of body and mind.


What kinds of programs does Kids Yoga Therapy offer?

Our main program is an eight-week whole family support package. This includes one-on-one sessions with the child, and access to the Parent Support Collective, which is coached by myself.


What impact has Kids Yoga Therapy had on your families?

The techniques I teach help kids face their fears. For example, a child who was attacked by a dog can now walk into a house with dogs without going into a fear meltdown.

We have also been able to help children who struggled to communicate their feelings find new methods to do so. And foster children who have participated in our programs now have learning tools to help them when they feel overwhelmed by the unpredictability in their world.


What is the most rewarding part of being a yoga teacher and working with kids?

Seeing children’s proud happy faces when they tell me how brave they have been in situations that previously would have left them overwhelmed with fear, and being able to support families during times of turmoil – these are the things that make me feel fulfilled as a yoga teacher and a social worker. Plus, working with children brings out my inner child, which I love!

If you’d like to know more about how Jess can help you or your family, she’d love to hear from you. Reach out here. And we always love to hear from our mini families at mini too! Drop us a line or give us a ring for a chat anytime!