Let’s face it, school for anyone can be a challenge. Even more so for those children suffering with autism and ADHD. According to filmmaker David Lynch, who has been instrumental in bringing the practice of Transcendental Meditation into Western consciousness, ten million students currently take antidepressant medication and four million children suffer from ADHD and other learning disorders. Staggering figures, the good news is that researchers are beginning to study how meditation can positively affect a child’s schoolroom experience.
Susan Moffitt pens this recent Autism Key post on neuroscientist Richard Davidson’s work on meditation and neuroplasticity (the brain’s changing response to experience and the environment) and how the practice might offer relief to those children with ADHD and autism. According to Moffitt, researchers are focusing on preschoolers and fifth-graders, studying how meditation might affect a child’s ability to self-regulate.
Empathy, attention, “calm-and-connect”, immune strengthening — all sound great for autism. Indeed, Davidson has been inspired to study preschoolers and fifth graders, including those with autism and attention deficit disorders, in an effort to understand the effect of practicing meditation in the classroom. Researchers will see if meditation can affect bullying, classroom attention, memory and anti-social behavior.
Scientifically, the results are not in but anecdotally, we know that when meditation is practiced in schools, it benefits children on the autism spectrum by promoting self awareness, the first step to self-regulation. Under stress, the child who meditates is more apt to remember to breathe. And because children with autism are so sensitive to the vibrations of others, having a whole group practicing meditation together goes a long way towards reducing classroom anxiety. I once witnessed my son’s social skills class meditating at the start of their session. A twangy gaggle of teens transformed to a calm, cohesive group after ten minutes of guided imagery and breathing.
Read more from Moffitt on using meditation to provide relief to those children with autism and ADHD here.