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Mindfulness, Students, and Classrooms

Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are far more likely to participate in mainstream classrooms than in the past. However, this has created new challenges for teachers. Around one in every 68 children is affected by ASD, per the Centers for Disease Control (1). In comparison, ASD in 2002 occurred in just one in every 150 children (2). Meanwhile, youngsters with ADHD and Tourette Syndrome can also experience difficulties in school environments. Mindfulness practices are increasingly utilized by teachers to foster learning and social integration in these children.

Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Research in Youth

The MBSR therapeutic meditation program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 showed promising results in a study conducted by Saltzman and colleagues at Stanford University in elementary school-aged children (3). Meanwhile, findings published in Autism showed that mindfulness training in ASD adolescents was linked to an overall self-reported improved quality of life (4).

Other research studies focused on the utilization of mindfulness in school children are presently occurring. For example, the largest public school district in Colorado has enabled Denver public school students to have access to Muse—a neurofeedback technological device that trains students to practice mindfulness through a period of meditation (5). An article in 2016 in The Atlantic also described a federally-funded Erikson Institute study of a mindfulness program in Chicago public school students (6).

Three Outcomes of School-Based Mindfulness and Meditation

The following are three classroom-based outcomes of mindfulness programs presented in a research article published in 2012 (7):

  • Improved classroom behavior and social competence;
  • Increased student attentiveness to learning;
  • Reduced classroom aggression and bullying

 There are also mindfulness-based training programs for teachers described in this article as follows:

  • Mindfulness-Based Wellness Education (MBWE) – created at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University of Toronto).
  • Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) – offered in Denver, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and the Garrison Institute in New York.
  • Stress Management and Relaxation Techniques in Education (SMART) – offered in Vancouver, Canada.

How Meditation Aids Kids with ADHD

Holding the attention of students with ADHD is problematic for teachers in large public school classrooms. Not only does the inattentiveness of ADHD-afflicted children reduce their ability to learn, but these kids can distract other students through their excessive fidgeting and typical outbursts (e.g., throwing objects). Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal reported that the use of mindfulness practices and meditation continues to gain traction in public schools (8).

mindfulness meditation in classrooms
mindfulness meditation in classrooms

Since the transfer of students into special needs classes has been shown to lower self-esteem in students with ADHD, teacher employment of mindfulness techniques may particularly aid ADHD-afflicted children to better engage in the learning process.

School-age children have embraced learning new technological devices. Therefore, combining technology with a mindfulness program may increase their interest in daily meditation. The Assistive Technology Coordinator for the Denver Public School System noted that the data collected by Muse device technology will be analyzed to evaluate outcomes of the schools’ mindfulness program (9). This data-collection capacity will improve teachers’ ability to ascertain whether their mindfulness programs are effective within different types of classroom settings.

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – Data and Statistics. Webpage: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – Data and Statistics. Webpage: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
  3. Child Mind Institute. The power of mindfulness: How a meditation practice can help kids become less anxious, more focused. Webpage: https://childmind.org/article/the-power-of-mindfulness/
  4. de Bruin EI, et al. (2015). MYmind: Mindfulness training for youngsters with autism spectrum disorders and their parents. Autism 19(8). Website: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1362361314553279?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&
  5. ChooseMuse.com. Denver Public Schools Incorporates Muse Into Curriculum. Webpage: http://www.choosemuse.com/blog/denver-public-schools-incorporates-muse-into-curriculum/
  6. Deruy, Emily. (May 20, 2016). Does Mindfulness Actually Work in Schools? The Atlantic Webpage: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/05/testing-mindfulness-in-the-early-years/483749/
  7. Meiklejohn J, et al. (2012). Integrating mindfulness training into K-12 education: Fostering the resilience of teachers and students. Mindfulness Webpage: http://www.mindful-well-being.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Meiklejohn-et-al-2012.pdf
  8. Holland, Emily. (February 16, 2015). Can ‘mindfulness’ help students do better in school? Wall Street Journal Webpage: https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-mindfulness-help-students-do-better-in-school-1424145647
  9. ChooseMuse.com. Denver Public Schools Incorporates Muse Into Curriculum. Webpage: http://www.choosemuse.com/blog/denver-public-schools-incorporates-muse-into-curriculum/
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