When I hear someone teaching a five-year-old with a cutesy voice, it really grates on me.

Using a baby voice to teach a kid with developmental delays is just wrong.

Personally, I don’t use a sing-songy voice with children of any age. I also don’t worry much about using big words, as long as I teach them what they mean. That is with any population I teach.

(And I have been teaching kids since I was twelve, including classes and lessons in art–I assisted my father, teaching weekend printmaking and cartooning classes at the Children’s Arts and Science Workshops, a community arts program in Washington Heights, Manhattan–violin, cello, voice, high school musicals, chorus, orchestra, acting, computers, and more.)

At age twelve was also when I was first introduced to “emotionally disturbed” and “handicapped” kids as they were known then, at the now defunct New York Philanthropic League Pediatric Playroom, where my mother was volunteering as part of her education credits when she returned to college. My mother made it clear that I could play with these kids like any other kids, and to look past their unusual appearance or behavior. I remember becoming chums with a kid with cerebral palsy restricted to a wheelchair who had a great sense of humor.

Do they understand what I am saying?

With kids with autism, it is hard to be sure what meaning sinks in when I teach yoga, so I choose not to worry about it. I show them respect by addressing them in a normal tone in my normal manner of speaking.

(Interestingly, I know a wonderful special ed art teacher who speaks in a baby voice to the class, but it turns out that is her natural voice, and the way she speaks to everyone.)

So stop the cutesy voice, the cutesy games and the cutesy songs and let’s do yoga!