Whether your child has autism or not, mindfulness activities should be a basic practice
A child with Autism has difficulty understanding their feelings and surroundings. They, even more, struggle expressing it.
Most of the time, they will alter it with behavior that will make you wish to disappear for a moment. People start to give you a look or approach to try to help, but it only escalates his anxiety.
I know how it feels, for I am a mother of a child in the spectrum.
At times I ended up ashamed of my son’s behavior, resulting in stress and awkwardness. There were also instances we avoided certain places just to prevent him from full-blast explosion of crying, screaming and running.
Only to find out he has sensory processing disorder coming with his Autism.
I learned that his distracting wails and squeals were his cry for help.
Key Takeaway: One of the best ways to handle your child’s meltdown is to stay calm yourself.
Mindfulness activities as therapy
He started therapy immediately afterward. His therapist addressed the sensory issues one-by-one.
I discovered that he is sensitive to many things and he calms on things I’m not aware of.
The therapist then introduced Mindfulness as part of our therapy program.
Mindfulness, according to the therapist, will make him aware of his body, feelings, thoughts and surroundings. It will help him process different sensory inputs.
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 is essential when he starts schooling.
Simple mindfulness activities to try
I agreed to start our mindfulness journey, there is no harm in trying and there’s nothing to lose anyway.
The therapist introduced activities to help me understand the mindfulness approach easier. Here are some activities for a head start:
- Massages. It introduced 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.
- Blowing bubbles. 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.
- Playing with slime and clay. This popular sensory toy helps with sensory processing. It also calms and expands his focus on the present moment. Add it to kitchen play to introduce life skills as well.
- Yoga exercises. Copying an image or position helped him become aware of his body parts and be observant of others. It is also calming when he is in hyperactive mode.
- Scoop and transfer activities. Kitchen play for kids is not only for cooking, it 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.
- Less 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. I focused on buying Montessori toys that promotes open-ended play.
Key Takeaway: 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.
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).
Benefits of mindfulness activities on child with Autism
With consistent practice of mindfulness, major improvements was noticeable.
Below are the three distinct benefits of mindfulness activities that we introduced with my son:
- Focus. 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.
- Social Skills. Since he is 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.
- Coping abilities. Mindfulness practice allowed him to view diverse feelings, thoughts and sensations as passing events and bring his attention back to the present moment. With this, it reduced his heightened levels of stress, emotional, and behavioral problems. He learned to cope and adjust to most situations.
There are benefits for parents too
Mindfulness was not only beneficial to my son. It taught us to become mindful parents as well and changed our over-all 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. We are excited to see what the future has for our child.