In a new study, researchers found that school-based mindfulness programs can improve decision-making skills and teach children with autism to focus attention and react less impulsively through breathing exercises that will allow them to reduce anxiety
The research was conducted by a team at Rutgers University.
Mindfulness practice trains people to focus their attention on awareness of the present moment.
It has been shown to improve decision-making skills and to be effective in reducing anxiety, a common condition in the one in 68 children nationwide diagnosed with autism.
In the study, the team used an eight-week mindfulness program to test 27 high-functioning students with autism ages 10 to 17 at Newmark, a private school for children with special needs in New Jersey.
Students were introduced to the basic tenets of mindfulness, then taught specific practices such as mindful breathing or focusing attention on the body, thoughts, and emotions.
The students were tested on their impulse control, attention, and decision-making before and after the program.
The team found that the children improved their executive functions like controlling emotions, maintaining self-control, focusing attention, and being flexible in changing their perspectives.
They found that the practice taught the students to take a moment to stop and breathe. This reduced impulsiveness and allowed them to make better decisions.
The team says practicing mindfulness teaches our students the important skill of treating the moment as something that needs to be attended to and to let everything else go.
The lead author of the study is Helen Genova, a research assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
The study is published in the journal Research in Developmental Disabilities.
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