Well-being of parents of children with autism and related disabilities

Jones, L., et al. (2018). A mindfulness parent well-being course: Evaluation of outcomes for parents of children with autism and related disabilities recruited through special schools. European Journal of Special Needs Education33(1), 16-30.

Abstract. Parents of children with intellectual disabilities and/or autism have been shown to experience higher levels of distress than other parents. Despite such data having been available for several decades, the evidence base for psychological interventions to support parental well-being is small. Recent data suggest that both mindfulness and acceptance processes are associated with decreased psychological distress for parents of children with intellectual disability and/or autism. In addition, some controlled evaluations of mindfulness-based interventions for these parents have resulted in positive outcomes for mothers in particular.

In the present study 18 mothers and 3 fathers were recruited via special schools who then attended a Mindfulness Based Well-Being for Parents (MBW-P) group over eight weeks. Parents completed questionnaire measures before and at the end of the course. Statistical analysis showed significant reported increases in mindfulness and self-compassion, and reduced general stress. Parents also reported reductions in anxiety and depression, although these changes were not statistically significant.

No significant reductions in their child’s behaviour problems or increases in the child’s prosocial behaviour were found. Parents also reported high levels of satisfaction with the course. These preliminary data suggest that further research studies testing the effectiveness of the MBW-P course are warranted.

Children learn to cultivate peace and calm within

Veilleux, Colleen M. The Implementation of a Silence Area into the Environment and How it Impacts the Social-Emotional Behavior of the Students. Diss. University of Wisconsin-River Falls, 2017. Full text.

Abstract. Modern children are plagued with struggles that were unheard of decades ago. Due to busy lifestyles and limitless use of technology, the social-emotional and physical well-being of children is at stake. Children today have increased attention problems, anxiety, and a lack of self-regulation and self-awareness. Mindfulness is the practice of sitting still and silent, focusing attention inward. Mindful practices cultivate peace and calm within the child, better equipping him/her to handle the stressors of life.

The implementation of a silence area into a Montessori environment facilitates these practices by providing children with a space devoted to being still and silent. This action research study surrounds the implementation of a silence area as a means to benefit the social-emotional behavior of students. The students’ use of the area was recorded each day. Behavior data was gathered to observe the impact the silence area had on the students. The findings showed a decrease in the amount of behavior that required redirection. Parent surveys were also conducted to gather data and observations of student behavior at home.

Those survey results suggested an increase in self-awareness and self-regulation as observed by the parents. Overall, the results of this study have shown that regular use of the silence area not only provides students with moments of solitude, but also benefits their social-emotional development through gains of self-regulation and self-awareness. Although more research on the topic of “mindfulness and children” is emerging, research concurs with these findings and their promising effects.

Parents of children with ASD

Rayan, A., & Ahmad, M. (2016). Effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions on quality of life and positive reappraisal coping among parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 55. 185–196. Published online. Abstract and tables.

Highlights

  1. (QOL) is considered a critical outcome for measuring the effectiveness of intervention programs for parents of children with (ASD).
  2. To date, little is known about the effectiveness of MBI on QOL and coping in parents of children with ASD.
  3. MBI can improve psychological and social domains of QOL and enhance coping in parents of children with ASD.
  4. Parents who non-judgmentally respond to their children are expected to report better QOL and positive stress reappraisal coping.
  5. The MBI should be considered as a supportive intervention to help parents of children with ASD.

ASD = autism spectrum disorder
MBI = mindfulness-based interventions
QOL = quality of life

Neurobiology of wisdom

mindfulness in schools

From Mindful Schools website. As the scope of science expands, concepts that were previously confined to the humanities are receiving scientific attention. One recent example of this trend is the scientific exploration of wisdom. Traditionally, discussions of wisdom have been confined to disciplines such as philosophy. Philosophy is, after all, literally the ‘love of wisdom.’

A few years ago, two psychiatrists from University of California San Diego published an article in the Archives of General Psychiatry titled, “Neurobiology of Wisdom.” They suggest that “wisdom is a unique psychological construct, not just a collection of desirable traits with a convenient unifying label.” The authors defined wisdom as six key components and discuss the neurobiological characteristics underlying each.

What is striking how these six components of wisdom dovetail with outcomes relevant to mindfulness practice. . . . more

Mindfulness and autism spectrum disorders

de Bruin, E. I., Blom, R., Smit, F. M., van Steensel, F. J., & Bögels, S. M. (2014). MYmind: Mindfulness training for Youngsters with autism spectrum disorders and their parents. Autism, 1362361314553279. Published online before printing.

From the Abstract. Despite the dramatic increase in autism spectrum disorder in youth and the extremely high costs, hardly any evidence-based interventions are available. The aim of this study is to examine the effects of mindfulness training for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder, combined with Mindful Parenting training.

A total of 23 adolescents with autism spectrum disorder, referred to a mental health clinic, received nine weekly sessions of mindfulness training in group format. Their parents (18 mothers, 11 fathers) participated in parallel Mindful Parenting training. A pre-test, post-test, and 9-week follow-up design was used.Adolescents reported an increase in quality of life and a decrease in rumination, but no changes in worry, autism spectrum disorder core symptoms, or mindful awareness.

Although parents reported no change in adolescent’s autism spectrum disorder core symptoms, they reported improved social responsiveness, social communication, social cognition, preoccupations, and social motivation. About themselves, parents reported improvement in general as well as in parental mindfulness. They reported improved competence in parenting, overall parenting styles, more specifically a less lax, verbose parenting style, and an increased quality of life.

Stress in mothers of children with autism

Conner, C. M., & White, S. W. (2014). Stress in mothers of children with autism: Trait mindfulness as a protective factor. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8(6), 617-624. Abstract.

Mindfulness-based interventions may reduce parents’ stress and improve parent–child relationships. Given the chronic nature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and its influence on parents’ stress, interventions to promote mindfulness may be especially helpful for parents of children with ASD.

Prior to undertaking intervention development, it is first necessary to establish the relationship between mindfulness and stress, as other factors like child behavioral difficulties may overshadow the mother’s regulation strategies. In a sample of mothers of children with ASD (n = 67) and a comparison sample of mothers without ASD (n = 87), mindfulness was significantly associated with the level of maternal stress above and beyond child behavior problems.

Results suggest that interventions to promote mindfulness may be helpful in reducing parenting stress among mothers of children with ASD, as well as mothers of typically developing children. Due to the chronic nature of ASD, such interventions may be particularly applicable.

Mindful parenting

Geurtzen, N., et al. (2014). Association Between Mindful Parenting and Adolescents’ Internalizing Problems: Non-judgmental Acceptance of Parenting as Core Element. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 1-12. From the Abstract:

Previous studies have showed that traditional parenting dimensions (e.g., responsiveness, behavioral control, psychological control, and autonomy support) are related to adolescents’ internalizing problems. The current study examined mindful parenting, a new approach to parenting based on the principles of mindfulness. Mindful parenting as operationalized in the present study consisted of six dimensions: listening with full attention, compassion for the child, non-judgmental acceptance of parental functioning, emotional non-reactivity in parenting, emotional awareness of the child, and emotional awareness of self.

Results showed that of the six mindful parenting dimensions, only the dimension non-judgmental acceptance of parental functioning was significantly associated with adolescents’ internalizing problems. This means that children of parents who reported higher levels of non-judgmental acceptance of their own functioning as a parent reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.

These findings indicate that in future parenting research and practices, it is relevant to take parental thoughts, feelings, and attitudes with regard to their own role as a parent into account when studying the association between parenting and adolescents’ internalizing problems.