A child with Autism has difficulty understanding their feelings and surroundings. They, even more, struggle to express it. Most of the time, they will alter it with behavior that will make you wish to disappear for a moment. I know how it feels. I had those moments of wanting to fade away, for I am a mother of a child in the spectrum.
I remember the times how I ended up ashamed of my son’s behavior resulting in stress and awkwardness. There were instances we avoided certain places. I was anxious he might be in a full-blast explosion of crying, screaming, and running. Only to find out he has sensory processing disorder coming with his Autism. Only then I learned that his distracting wails and squeals were his cry for help. Also, my innocence on his condition was triggering his behavior.
He started therapy immediately afterward. His therapist addressed his sensory issues one-by-one. I discovered that he’s sensitive to many things and he calms on things I’m not aware of. The therapist then suggested Mindfulness. She introduced mindfulness activities that will make him aware of his body, feelings, thoughts, and surroundings. She asked me to research it to have a better understanding, so I did.
It led me to many studies and research that link to the benefits of mindfulness to autism. According to Jon Kabat Zinn, the creator of Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, mindfulness encourages paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally. As he becomes aware of different sensations and emotions, he will be able to respond accordingly and calmly.
It will teach him to focus, react with less impulse, and self-regulate. These skills build self-awareness and self-management, which are essential when he starts schooling.
I agreed to start our mindfulness journey, there is no harm in trying and I have nothing to lose anyway. The therapist introduced activities to help me understand the mindfulness approach easier. Here are some activities for a head start:
It introduces the feel of different body sensations. The various pressure also made my son realized what is painful and what is relaxing. He used to run around a lot, never thinking if he will bump into something or someone. Awareness to the feeling of pain, he became more careful and considerate to his surrounding. It also helped him sleep better.
A basic exercise for oral motor skills, an essential for speech development. Blowing bubbles also became his breathing exercise. He learned how tiredness feels like through his breathing. It lessens the unstoppable and inappropriate running in circles. Looking at the bubbles also improved his focus through visual tracking skills.
Copying an image or position helped him become aware of his body parts and be observant of others. It is also calming when his in hyperactive mode.
Playing with slime and clay.
This popular sensory toy helps with sensory processing. It also calms and expands his focus on the present moment.
Scoop and transfer activities. This activity, with rice or beans, helped him to calm and extend focus. It also promotes spatial awareness, which is next to body awareness.
Reading a book.
It is not only beneficial in expanding his vocabulary. It also enhanced his recognition of different thoughts and emotions in various situations.
Fewer toys more play.
I realized that he does not need a lot of toys. He has no concept of play yet, anyways. What he needs was someone to play with him and show him how, which in this case was ME. We started to practice minimalism with his toys then followed our entire household.
With constant practice of mindfulness activities for two weeks, results were already evident. There was an improvement in awareness of his own body, feelings, sensations, and surroundings. He learns to regulate his responses to situations that used to trigger his meltdown. The hyperactivity and hypersensitivity became lesser. His meltdown was almost gone (I can’t even recall when was the last one).
Moreover, I noticed three distinct benefits of mindfulness in my son. There was an improvement of focus, developing social skills, and emerging coping abilities. Mindfulness helped him to focus on what is essential in the present moment. He can now filter what a distraction is and how to redirect his attention to the critical part of a situation. Since he’s more aware and focused at the present moment, he was able to interact with people around him. He now attends to other people’s emotions, reactions, and conversations. The increased awareness of his social environment changed his behavior towards others, which developed empathy and social interaction. Mindfulness practice allowed him to view diverse feelings, thoughts, and sensations as passing events and bring his attention back to the present moment. It reduced his heightened levels of stress, emotional, and behavioral problems. He learned to cope and adjust to most situations.
If your child can understand and follow specific instructions, there are more specific mindfulness activities you can practice together. Such as Soles of the feet, Morning or Bedtime Mindfulness and Meditation. Once my son could comprehend these instructions, I would introduce more of these activities.
Mindfulness was not only beneficial to my son. It taught us to become mindful parents as well and changed our overall mental health. Our relationship improved when we changed the way we respond to his distressing situations, feelings, and thoughts. We became non-judgmental, more accepting, and more compassionate about what’s he’s going through. The more we became aware of our actions and words, we started to respond to him with empathy and acceptance. We learned to focus on his needs, not on what other people might say. We are glad to see him blossomed to become a calmer, happier, kinder and compassionate child.
Posted on behalf of one of our team members.