Category Archives: special needs

Meditation and mindfulness for autism and ADHD

I initially had the idea back in 2003 that we should be teaching our kids meditation and mindfulness.teaching kids meditation

Back then… there was very little in the way of resources that people could find to help them teach kids and teens mindful meditation practices.

How the landscape has changed (thank goodness!)

Today we see meditation and mindfulness being incorporated into many areas of a child’s life.  These essential life skills will help them process increasing amounts of stress that we place on their small shoulders (diet, technology, lifestyle).  I’m glad that people are waking up to the idea of teaching their kids meditation – in my view it is as important as teaching them to brush their teeth!

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Toolkit for teaching mindful activities – kids on the autistic spectrum

Creating a space to teach mindfulness to kids with autism 

We were asked a question about the types of tools people could use if they wanted to teach their kids (who are on the autistic spectrum) how to feel calmer and less stressed using mindful activities.  

” I will be moving into a purpose built unit for children with autism shortly and I have to kit out the sensory room. I’m wondering if you can suggest anything in particular that would be beneficial.”

Expert advice

We write about this subject all the time…particularly in the 2nd book – “Connected Kids‘.

However we have taught thousands of people how to teach kids meditation, and  thought that many of our Connected Kids Tutors would have great, practical advice.  

We were right!

Here are some wonderful ideas that may help your kids on the spectrum bring their energy back into balance with meditation and mindfulness.

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Children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and sleep issues

(Guest blog written by one of our Connected Kids Level 1 Students from Denmark…)

Many children with ADHD have difficulty falling asleep at night, and parents of children with ADHD often see that their children rarely seem to be rested when it is time to go to school.

When children go to school or kindergarten feeling tired, it means that their internal battery is not fully charged. They get into conflict more easily, find it harder to stay focused, and their emotions are unstable because of a poor night’s sleep.

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Child Genius – academically bright but emotionally inept?

Emotional vs Academic Intelligence

The other week we caught the end of the TV show ‘Child Genius’ – teach_children_meditation_boy_wearing_glasseswhere children with (usually) a high score on Mensa take part in a quiz to become the Child Genius for that year.
These kids demonstrate an amazing array of skills – from their ability to remember facts to computing arithmetic sums at lightening speed. It was impressive.

What was not so impressive was watching the stress these children experienced. The emotions they were feeling were bubbling under the surface (some cried) and yet the parents seemed to focus on scores and winning.  Continue reading

Is technology disconnecting our kids?

 

In society we want things easy.

Maybe it’s a combination of technology, lifestyle and the way boy reading text on phoneour brains are developing.  Reading the book ‘Mind Change‘ has been fascinating as I learn I am a ‘digital immigrant’.  That means I have been introduced to blogs, emails and the tech stuff  later in my lifetime.

According to the author, Baronness Susan Greenfield kids are ‘digital natives’ – in other words their brains are introduced to it from the day they are born and it is shaping how their brains develop.

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Mandala meditations for kids

I love mandalas.

teaching children meditation with mandalas

www.mandalaproject.org

They are one of the most effective ways to teach children mindfulness skills while they meditate.

The idea behind mandalas in Buddhist practices is to create the mandala out of coloured sand while paying attention to thoughts, body, breath and emotions.  Then when complete,  the mandalas are released to symbolise impermanence and non-attachment.

However we can use paper mandalas just as effectively with young people.

If you find it difficult to get your kids to sit still and meditate in the way you think they should, then you need to change the way you think about meditation.  Mandalas can help you do this.

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Why I care about your child’s happiness

I wasn’t sure what to write about in my recent blog.

I get a bit tired of emails  or blogs all sounding the same and a teach children meditation and mindfulnessbit ‘salesy’.

But that’s not me.

So I decided to let you know why I feel responsible for your child’s happiness. 

Every time I read about the stress young people and children experience or the difficult circumstances they encounter with no skills to process it, it makes me think of me.

I think about my life as a young child, with a single mum who did her best to clothe and feed me but who didn’t always have the time to play.  I know that had my mum known how to create bedtime meditation stories to help me sleep she would have helped me (and her) cope with some very anxious times.

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The real reason why we teach kids/teens meditation

Today I read an article  about someone in the States using a john franklinderogatory term for the President.  This term is an insult to people who have special needs.  However a Special Olympics athlete replied to the incident with a response that gave me chills – because it was so compassionate and kind – even in the face of such anger and sarcasm.  He signed  it as

“A friend you haven’t made yet, John Franklin Stephens”

I was so moved by this, because this is why we teach kids meditation.

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Teaching meditation to kids with special needs

I love showing people how to teach kids meditation.  I am constantly amazed at how children and teens respond to mindfulness and mindful activities and it gives me no greater joy to see the delight of the adults who teach them.

Often adults are amazed how kids respond.  Perhaps adults think that it must be difficult for kids to meditate because adults usually struggle at the beginning.  I don’t believe this is true and especially for kids with special needs.

I believe in them.  I believe that kids with special needs are just as capable of finding moments of peace if we show them how.  I refuse to accept that they can’t do it and know that it is my purpose to help find a more creative, fun and adapted way for them to access this important life skill we call meditation.

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Children, stress and mindful meditation

We usually focus on the adults when we talk about stress but research shows that children also experience stress from both external and internal factors.

Pressures of technology, computer gaming, exam results, hormonal changes and changes in family settings can initiate the flight or fight response which we refer to as ‘acute stress’.

The difference between adults and children is that (in most cases) adults know how to take steps to address their stress symptoms, express their emotions and calm their minds.  In the case of children to teens, this may not always be the case and, if not addressed, acute stress can lead to chronic stress symptoms.

Teaching children or teens how to practice mindfulness and meditation has unhappy_girl (1)become a hot topic in recent years and a growing uptake of these practices have illustrated some interesting results, with improvements in:
•    Health and emotional well-being
•    Attendance rates at schools
•    Focus and concentration skills – aiding study
•    Improvement in sleep patterns

If you are thinking about teaching your children some of these simple techniques, here are a few suggestions to help you get started.

Some top tips to get started

Are you calm?

First of all – ensure that you are in a calm state.  Children tend to reflect the mood and energy of those adults around them and can act like little mirrors if you are in a bad mood.  If you are calm, they are in a better position to mirror that.

Introduce mindfulness in day to day activities

Using the senses (touch, sight, taste, smell or sound), encourage your children and teens to choose one of these and focus on it fully during a normal daily activity like eating, drinking or walking.

Younger children

They tend to enjoy learning to relax when they are lying down in bed and it is an easier way for the adult to introduce the idea of relaxing with the breath and the body when they are in this natural position.

Meditation Game

Instead of just calling it ‘meditation’, for younger children call it a ‘meditation game’ – the latter word will encourage more enthusiasm and interest.  Then you can use their imagination to create a favourite place they can imagine being in with or without their friends.

Teens

Mindfulness meditation is a good way to engage this age group, by giving them simple words to meditate with.  These can be as simple as ‘just for this moment I will not worry/be angry’ to the more Buddhist approach of [breathing in] ‘my body is like a mountain, [breathing out] ‘my body is strong’.

The next step
The Connected KidsTM programme is based on the international best selling booking – ‘Calm Kids – help children relax with mindful activities’ by Lorraine E Murray.  Lorraine has been teaching meditation for  over 10 years whilst studying the effects on all age groups.  Connected KidsTM now offers online and in-person training (worldwide) for parents or adults working with children – teaching them how to help children learn meditation.
Lorraine’s 2nd book (Connected Kids) illustrates how teaching meditation to kids can help children on the autistic spectrum, with ADHD or other special needs.