I was very honoured to be invited to talk about mindfulness to the audience of the 3rd Autism Education Conference, organized by Autism Support Network and hosted by the ever so generous New York University in Abu Dhabi.
Being a great believer in the potential of mindfulness practice to improve people’s well-being, I always welcome opportunities to talk about it.
While mindfulness practice could be recommended to people from all walks of life, talking to folks in some way touched by autism felt like an especially neat fit. Parents of children on the spectrum are much more stressed than those of children with other challenges. Caregivers and specialists working with this population have a limited number of approaches they can call upon. Many of them rely on external management of the individual’s behaviour and it seems like a strategy helping people to manage themselves is needed to supplement the current efforts. Benefits of mindfulness practice, as studies show, include improved ability to self-regulate emotions and behaviour, crucial to our functioning. This results in decreased aggression, anxiety and improved sleep for practitioners – issues that people on the autism spectrum often battle with. Unsurprisingly, the positive effects of our mindfulness practice are also known to affect others around us, providing additional motivation to go for it☺
The pool of studies on mindfulness and autism is small but growing. Definitely an area worth keeping an eye on in the future!
Below I have listed a few examples:
- Conner, C. M., & White, S. W. (June 01, 2014). Stress in mothers of children with autism: Trait mindfulness as a protective factor. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8, 6, 617-624
- Pisula, E. (May 01, 2007). A Comparative Study of Stress Profiles in Mothers of Children with Autism and those of Children with Down’s Syndrome. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 20, 3, 274-278
- Rodgers, J., Glod, M., Connolly, B., & McConachie, H. (January 01, 2012). The relationship between anxiety and repetitive behaviours in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 11, 2404-9.
- Spek, A. A., van, H. N. C., & Nyklíček, I. (January 01, 2013). Mindfulness-based therapy in adults with an autism spectrum disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 1, 246-253.