Atlanta, G.A—Emory University research highlights the benefits of mindfulness and meditation for autistic children and teens.
Autism is a “developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. NIH states that is a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.” According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 54 children is identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD.). The good news is that research from Emory University shows that there are benefits of mindfulness and meditation for the autistic child and teen.
As a meditation teacher, I have taught meditation to many kids and am thrilled to hear about these newly discovered benefits of mindfulness meditation for autistic children.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing the mind on the present moment in a nonjudgmental fashion. It is essentially about concentrating on the moment instead of living in the mind, instead of being lost in thoughts and feelings. There have been many proven benefits of mindfulness for children, which you can read about on the New York Times. And now we know that there is a particular benefits of mindfulness meditation for kids with autism: it helps them cope with anxiety [READ: Daily Meditation And Anxiety]
The Research on Mindfulness Meditation For Autism Child & Teen
Researchers from Emory University taught mindfulness meditation to students with autism aged 10 to 17 at Newmark private school for kids with special needs. The participants were taught the fundamental aspects of mindfulness, including mindful breathing exercises and focusing on the body. These are just a couple of the best mindfulness exercises for kids.
Before and after the mindfulness intervention, the researchers tests participant’s levels of attention, impulse control, and decision making skills. The researchers state that mindfulness had a positive effect on the children and teen’s executive functioning (a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control).
Speaking about the research, Helen Genova [research assistant professor in the physical medicine and rehabilitation department at Rutgers University New Jersey Medical School and director of the Social Cognition and Neuroscience Laboratory at the Kessler Foundation] stated, “We found that the children improved their executive functions like controlling emotions, maintaining self-control, focusing attention, and being flexible in changing their perspectives,”
Genova states, “As in previous studies on school-based mindfulness programs and typically functioning children, we found that the practice taught the students to take a moment to stop and breathe. This reduced impulsiveness and allowed them to make better decisions.”
Mindfulness is regarded as being a valuable tool for helping individuals to focus on the present moment instead of being lost in thoughts and feelings. This is one reason why we have started to see kids being taught mindfulness in schools. Regina Peter, co-executive director of Newmark says that this is highly valuable to teens and kids with autism. “Practicing mindfulness teaches our students the important skill of treating the moment as something that needs to be attended to and to let everything else go,” says Peter.