Yoga master to launch weekend retreat for struggling parents

Jackie Heffer-Cooke, founder of ZenMuma and ZenKids

Jackie Heffer-Cooke, founder of ZenMuma and ZenKids - Credit: Jess Wilkins Photography

The power of yoga will be used to help parents and carers of children with autism gain new tools in coping with daily challenges through a pilot retreat weekend.

Jackie Heffer-Cooke, 49, from Wymondham, has been teaching yoga for over a decade.

She is running The Live Well With Children On The Spectrum project from September 30 to October 2, with relationship skills expert Andrea Rippon, from Norfolk.

Partly inspired by her own experiences of bringing up a child who was diagnosed with autism several years ago, she wants to help other parents and carers with specific exercises for them and the youngsters at the adult-only weekend and hopes it will attract future funding.

Mrs Heffer-Cooke, director of ZenMuma and ZenKids, which trains people to teach children and parents, said: "Looking at it from a parent perspective, living with a child on the spectrum is incredibly rewarding at times but challenging.

"When children are between the ages of three and seven that is when they experience the majority of their difficulties and meltdowns.

"I have been teaching children's yoga and mum and baby yoga for some time and I became interested in children living on the spectrum.

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"I wanted to research ways to help. It became clear you needed different approaches."

Yoga expert and businesswoman Jackie Heffer-Cooke, from Wymondham

Yoga expert and businesswoman Jackie Heffer-Cooke, from Wymondham - Credit: Jess Wilkins Photography

She added that a course similar to the retreat would have helped her a lot.

Yoga exercises taught on the course include focusing on a young person's extremities, including hands, feel, heads and joints.

"For children with autism, they are living in a stress response system where they are living in a relatively high level of anxiety. They live more on the edge and are less able to calm themselves.

"Yoga-based exercise is fantastic for children on the spectrum," said Mrs Heffer-Cooke.

Jackie Heffer-Cooke, from Wymondham, teaching a yoga session

Jackie Heffer-Cooke, from Wymondham, teaching a yoga session - Credit: Jess Wilkins Photography

The wellness guru added the weekend would also teach parents and carers mindfulness and breathing techniques to help them relax, as well as giving them the skills to teach their children exercises.

The pilot retreat in Haveringland can accommodate up to 12 people and cost £395 per person.

Mrs Heffer-Cooke, who has two children aged 16 and 12, wants to create a Community Interest Company to fund future retreats.