While life at any stage can be a struggle filled with stress and anxiety, for first through eighth graders who are just beginning to learn the social skills that will more than likely stick with them for the rest of their lives, life can be especially tough. Now consider those students with special needs like autism and attention-deficit disorders and you have quite a challenge on your hands.
Kristin E. Holmes pens this recent Inquirer post on a school in Pennsylvania that’s hoping to help special needs children control their anxiety through the benefits of meditation and other relaxation techniques that focus on the breath. According to Holmes, these students have difficulty reading social cues, and unfortunately, at times react in ways that to some appear inappropriate. Meditation makes it possible for them to control their overwhelming feelings and learn more appropriate ways of interacting.
“They feel out of control,” said JoAnn Allison, the district’s supervisor of special education. “A lot of the strategies we have are to help them feel they have control of their environments and themselves.”
Gallagher, who has studied a treatment approach known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, fit in perfectly, Allison said.
Mindfulness is a concept that means “paying attention on purpose in the present moment without judgment,” said Gallagher, who has trained at the Mindfulness Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
Meditative exercises such as deep breathing help practitioners pay attention to the reactions of the body and mind in stressful moments, said Don McCown, a faculty member at the Mindfulness Institute. Once those reactions are recognized, the person can work toward controlling them.
Read more here on the Pennsylvania school using the benefits of meditation to help students with special needs excel.