Master of Arts
Children on the autism spectrum are characterized by deficits in socioemotional skills. Previous research suggests that mindfulness is effective in improving social, emotional, and behavioural skills in a wide variety of populations. This review systematically investigated the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) in improving social, emotional, and behavioural functioning in children on the autism spectrum (0-12 years of age). Furthermore, the current review discussed adaptations to traditional MBIs when implemented to children on the autism spectrum. MBIs as a potential evidence-based practice for the target population was also investigated. Eleven studies met inclusion criteria. Results indicated that MBIs led to improvements in social communication, social motivation, externalizing and internalizing behaviors and executive functioning in children on the autism spectrum. MBIs were also assessed to be an established evidence-based practice for children on the autism spectrum. The significance of these findings for clinicians, parents and educators are discussed.
Summary for Lay Audience
Children on the autism spectrum lack skills in expressing emotions, interpreting social cues, and empathizing and recognizing others’ perspectives. These skills are defined as socioemotional skills. The lack of socioemotional skills can lead to negative social interactions, less communicative abilities, more externalizing and internalizing behaviors, and reduced perspective taking. Current evidence-based practices in socioemotional skill building for children on the autism spectrum are effective, however, rely on specific external cues and factors in a child’s environment that points to less generalization and maintenance of learned skills. Mindfulness is a process that leads to a mental state of being present and more aware of one’s emotions, sensations, bodily states, and social cues. This increased awareness can help children on the autism spectrum to recognize triggers and divert attention from negative thoughts and coping mechanisms to ones that are more adaptive. Past research done in the field of mindfulness-based interventions for autism spectrum disorder has focused on adolescents, adults, and caregivers of people on the autism spectrum. However, early implementation of interventions is crucial for the ASD population. Therefore, the current study looks to understand the effect of MBIs on socioemotional skill development in children on the autism spectrum (0-12 years) through a thorough systematic search. Furthermore, adaptations made to traditional MBI for children on the autism spectrum, and mindfulness training as an evidence-based practice is discussed. Eleven articles were chosen after review. I found that children on the autism spectrum had improved skills in social responsiveness, social motivation, externalizing and internalizing behaviors and emotion regulation after training in mindfulness. Furthermore, we found that when implementing to children on the autism spectrum traditional interventions adapt to provide explicit and direct instruction, utilize transition and visual schedules, and demonstrate concepts multi modally. Mindfulness training was also found to be an established evidence-based practice for children on the autism spectrum. Implications of mindfulness training for clinicians, teachers and parents are also discussed.
Nandadasa, Nethnie Thilakna, "Interventions based on Mindfulness for Socio-emotional Skill Building in Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Systematic Review" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9381.
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