Mindfulness & autism - Simple practices
Mindfulness practices can help kids with autism regulate their behaviors. Researchers have shown that mindfulness practices such as the Soles of the Feet Procedure, can significantly reduce the number of occurrences of aggressive acts in adolescents with autism.
This article will discuss the benefits of using mindfulness practices to help children with autism.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being focused on the present in a non-judgemental way, instead of allowing your thoughts to wander. Practicing mindfulness involves using different strategies to relax your mind and body. This helps to reduce stress. You can use something as simple as slowly breathing in and out to stay calm and present. Some individuals also use guided imagery, such as focusing on a calming mental image of a river.
Adolescents with autism were taught to use the Soles of the Feet Procedure as a mindfulness practice. They learned to shift their attention from whatever was acting as a trigger, to the soles of their feet. These children were studied over three years. Their aggressive acts dropped from 14 to 20 per week to 4 to 5 per week over this time.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is becoming more prevalent, with the number of cases in birth cohorts increasing from year to year. Several methods exist that can help children with autism to be less prone to behaviors such as aggression. Research shows that children with autism can learn to observe their thoughts and feelings so that they can react rationally to negative situations.
- How can mindfulness help children with ASD?
Mindfulness helps children with ASD and it also benefits their families. If a child with autism is having difficulty with challenging behavior, mindfulness practices can help them to improve their behavior. This leads to better relationships with friends and family members.
Parents are under less stress when a child improves in this way and even in just a few weeks, general parental wellness improves.
As parents become more relaxed, their relationships with their children improve. This further contributes to positive development in autistic children, and these kids become less stressed and anxious.
Teachers of children with special needs, who utilize mindfulness practices, can better regulate their responses to stressful classroom situations. This helps them to manage the social, educational, and emotional needs of kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Mindfulness for autism can help your child to:
- Stay calm
- Sleep better
- Form better relationships
- Be more aware
By becoming more aware of their thoughts and how their behavior can impact others, mindfulness practices can teach your child with ASD to:
- Observe without constantly judging or evaluating
- Be kind
- Be patient in different situations
- Experience life with fresh eyes all the time, enjoying their experiences more
- Helpful Mindfulness Practices for ASD
While mindfulness practices for kids with ASD are easy for children to use, they can also be directly helpful to adults. These practices include:
- The mindfulness walk
- Sound meditation
- Glitter jar
- Sensory breaks
A mindfulness walk is a short stroll in which your child is asked to stay alert to what they see, hear, smell, and otherwise sense. This walk can be for just five minutes, making it ideal when your child is getting stressed and needs to take a quick break.
If your child is very young, you can prompt their observations by sharing what you hear or see and asking them to share what they see or hear.
Sound meditation involves using sound to help your children to focus. You can use a chime or something else that makes a pleasant or relaxing sound. Give your child the opportunity to play the instrument and listen to the sound that it makes.
Ask your child what they notice about the sound. Once the chime or any other sound that you're using stops, ask them to listen to other sounds that are in their environment. Ask them what they hear.
A glitter jar is easy to keep with you while you are at home or even in your car and contains glitter of different colors, to represent your child's various emotions. Your child can also carry a small glitter jar with them in their bag, that they can use when necessary.
Sensory breaks give your child time away from constant auditory and visual stimuli in their environment. Create a safe space for them, where they can receive physical stimulation and remain calm.