Mindfulness-based intervention for teenagers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


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Interpersonal relationships, emotional regulation, and dealing with change are but a few of the things individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) struggle with every day. This is because ASD is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, learn and behave. But, while individuals with ASD may find certain things more challenging than neurotypical people, they tend to thrive in other aspects of their lives. People with autism can be incredibly diligent, for instance, focusing on the most minute detail rather than the overall picture. This makes these individuals highly creative and talented, not to mention exceptionally good at whatever they set their mind to. This, combined with their ability to focus deeply, observe acutely, and absorb and retain facts, often makes individuals with ASD a force to be reckoned with. Because individuals with ASD think and feel differently to neurotypical people, they approach things in interesting ways, producing innovative and pioneering solutions. Having ASD is a real superpower, something that is only truly realised once the more disruptive symptoms have been managed. With mindfulness-based intervention, teenagers and young adults will learn to self-regulate, to form meaningful and lasting relationships, and develop a mindset flexible to change. Help me help your teenager become their most authentic, uncompromising and happiest self.

Teenagers with ASD

The teenage years are full of new and exciting things: a new school, new friends, new interests and hobbies, more independence. Yet, this can be demanding, overstimulating and frightening for adolescents with ASD who are prone to developing rigid structures of thought and behaviour. For this reason, anxious and depressive feelings among adolescents with ASD can skyrocket during this period, and parents and teachers often report aggressive behaviour in their teenager. Further to this, peer relationships become increasingly important during adolescence. Individuals with ASD find social interactions difficult to navigate as they struggle to understand others’ perspectives, feelings and beliefs. The formative teenage years are a real challenge for everyone, for teenagers and their parents. However, the social and developmental challenges faced by teenagers are amplified for those with ASD, and their families.

Mindfulness-based intervention for people with ASD

Mindfulness is a tried and tested practice stemming from the ancient Buddhist tradition, providing psychologists with thousands of years of proof that mindfulness positively and holistically changes lives. It is a form of attentional training, increasing one’s awareness of the present moment in a non-judgemental way. Beyond this, mindfulness is a well-established nonpharmaceutical treatment of depression, stress, pain and illness. Given the link between having ASD and developing anxiety and/or depression in adolescence, mindfulness skills should be seen as an essential for any parent looking to help their teenager manage their experience of autism and related symptoms.

Researchers have found that even brief episodes of mindfulness meditation can exert profound effects on both brain and behaviour, improving one’s ability to empathise with others and imagine other points of view and perceptions. Observations made by psychologists have thus found that individuals with ASD were better able to decode complex mental states in others from subtle facial cues, and that they expressed more empathy towards others after mindfulness training. A decrease in aggressive behaviour has also been noted by psychologists. Furthermore, meditation practice and mindfulness-based intervention can help young people with ASD improve sensory processing. Individuals with autism tend to have impaired information processing skills, making over-stimulation a common problem. Increasing a mindful awareness to one’s surroundings, and one’s sensory world – both feeling psychologically and physically – helps reduce episodes caused by external and internal stimuli.

Having a teenager with ASD can be challenging and disruptive for parents, the teenager, and other children in the family. Yet, there is hope. Parents have highlighted the real and exciting improvements in their children with ASD after mindfulness-based interventions, noting an improvement in social responsiveness, social communication, and motivation, while adolescents with ASD have reported an increase in quality of life after mindfulness training.

Next steps

Individuals with ASD are often real powerhouses. They make loyal friends, thrive as creators, and pave the way as pioneers. However, their stellar qualities can be overshadowed by the disruptive symptoms of the disorder. With mindfulness-based intervention, these disruptive symptoms can be managed and minimised, helping your teenager explore the bounds of their amazing brain in a safe, productive way. The skills learned from mindfulness-based intervention are long-lasting, giving young people a self-regulatory toolkit that will help them thrive in their interpersonal and professional lives, enabling them to live an enriching, fulfilling and happy life.

Get in touch today. Together we can empower your teenager to live a full, autonomous and happy life.