Some of you may already know that I am passionate about teaching children meditation, however I am a particular fan of teaching children with autism some mindfulness meditation to help them (and us) cope.
In my book and the courses I teach, Calm Kids, I talk about how meditation can help children who are autistic. However for me there are some useful issues to be aware of when we are with children who have autism.
Noisey, Smelly, Bright…. scary
My experience has taught me that children who are autistic have a lack of filters on their physical senses and this makes life very challenging for them to cope with such a stimulating, noisey and quite toxic world. What seems like bizarre behaviour to us is actually what any of us would do if we walked in their shoes (eg imagine standing next to a pneumatic road drill – we cover our ears to cope with the loud noise!). All the other physical senses can be over exposed too (sight, smell, taste, touch). If we consider how these children perceive the world and how difficult it is for them to cope, perhaps we can have more patience and compassion for them and their experiences? Teaching children simple breath meditations can be a very helpful coping mechanism for them when faced with such overstimulation.
The influence of the energy centres…
I work with energy a lot in teaching healing and meditation. If you are unware of what i mean by energy centres or chakras, you can check them out on this link. For me the energy centres play a key role (and I explore these in more detail in my book) however one of the key energy centres that children with Autism (and ADHD) struggle with is being grounded. If we feel grounded we feel safe, centred and very secure. If we don’t, the opposite is true and for some children with autism I feel that they are not fully grounded in their physical body.
The root energy centre which influences how grounded or ungrounded we can be has a large part to play and using simple grounding meditations (using any imagery in meditation which links us to the ground and the earth) can help. Symptoms of being ungrounded can range from any one of these symptoms – from an over-busy mind, unable to sleep/poor sleep, fidgeting, constantly on the go as so much physical energy, clumsiness and not being able to complete projects (darting from one thing to the other).
Reflecting our energy
I’ve spoken with many parents and teachers who agree that children reflect back our energy to us (eg our state of mind and how we are feeling). So if we’ve had a bad day or feel tired/anxious, children act like mirrors and reflect it back. The more we can do to stay centred, calm and grounded using simple mindful meditation techniques, the better it is for them.
The bigger meaning of children with autism…
In my own meditation practice I often get insights into situations that bother me or I’m interested in. When I was writing my book, I set my intention that I wanted to know more about why children with autism is on the increase. I remember in this particular meditation seeing that If we allow our thoughts and emotions to run off into the future or worry about what has been, then autistic children respond to this energy and life becomes challenging as they pick up on it. I also saw how children with autism are teaching us a valuable gift. This gift these children give to us is to teach us to be in the moment and to let our own inner calmness rise to the surface. To be around children with autism is simply the only way to be if we are to encourage peace, balance and harmony for them. So in some strange way they persuade us to do that (and it brings huge benefits to us if we allow ourselves to receive this gift).
A mother’s story…
I received this from someone who follows our facebook campaign and thought it was so amazing, I had to share.
As for my [mindfulness] practice, I have studied some of Thich Nhat Hahns teachings. I had to begin to put into use what I was reading years ago when I was a tired, stressed out mother of two young boys. My oldest was two and my youngest was a newborn. I began by bringing myself to presence at the sink whenever I was hand washing dishes, using all my senses to connect deeply with myself and my immediate experience of hot soapy water. I found over the first few weeks that every time I calmed my mind, by son would become just as calm. I realized we were linked, bonded, energetically and that on some level my babies could sense and feel everything that I was feeling. This served as motivation to keep up my practice.The most important way this has helped my son with Aspergers is that it gave me the ability to look at him more deeply and to looked beyond the immediate hysteria he was experiencing, and into what was behind his fear, or anger. It taught me to take the time to center myself, breath deeply, and to ask myself what it was that I could not see that he could see (or feel). It taught me compassion and equanimity.
(M Romine, USA)
For me there is no conclusion just as life continues on with all its experiences. Every experience we have in life helps us to become aware of our choices… what we choose to think, say, behave, eat and so on. We can sit in judgement of all these choices, or we can simply learn to enjoy them. In my own experience, there are no two children alike. When it comes to children with autism, the truth of this is even stronger.
Perhaps we can consider then that there isn’t one solution to this and if we step back we might see what this teaches us about our life and our choices. If we practise moments of mindful attention to those precious minutes when we are with children who are autistic, centering our energy so we can allow them to do what they need to do to cope in this world, yet showing them they can trust us to guide them into a calmer state, then there is no final solution. Just a moment of peace.
(Here’s a very nice, simple meditation you can use with your children – just listen to it with 4 pebbles – pebble meditation)