When it comes to supporting behavioral improvements in children with autism, such as aggression, meltdowns, or social withdrawal, a lot of parents can begin to feel overwhelmed. While turning to behavioral autism treatments such as ABA can certainly be helpful, there are simple practices you can do as a parent to support self-awareness and emotional stability.
Mindfulness is a simple practice of quieting down the mind by objectively focusing on the present moment. This practice can be done by parents and children alike, so you may find that you will want to start practicing mindfulness yourself as a means of self-care. Mindfulness has can help reduce stress, depression, and aggression. It has also been shown to actually alter the brain to promote regular moods and introspective knowledge. Here are some mindfulness practices for you to try on your own.
This exercise can be integrated into different activities throughout your schedule and is very simple. Have your child close their eyes while you ring a bell, or whatever noticeable sound works best for you. Have them raise their hand each time you stop ringing and to pay close attention to surrounding sounds for an additional minute after you have stopped with the bell. This is an easy way to help your child focus on the present and to be aware of how they react to sensory input.
This is an opportunity to get some valuable outdoor time while you help your child practice mindfulness. Go for a short walk through your neighborhood with your child with both of you being silent for a few minutes. Afterward, have them tell you what they heard and felt during your walk. If they enjoy being active, you can have them run or skip and include how they noticed their heartbeat change when they increased their pace.
This is a great mindfulness practice for helping your child feel calm before going to sleep. As your child lays down in bed, have them close their eyes guide them through focusing on various parts of their body, starting with their toes and moving on up to the top of their head. You can follow this script to help give you some guidance, but you can also throw in some variation.
Snow Globe/Glitter Jar
This mindfulness technique is both a metaphor and a genuinely effective way to help your child calm down when experiencing stress. Using a snow globe, or a DIY glitter jar, have your child shake it up and watch as the chaotic movement of the glitter inevitably becomes still as each piece lands into place. Watching the glitter go from swirling around to a state of calm both helps to distract from stressful stimuli while also helping to internalize the idea that they can be calm too.
Mindfulness practices are easy to pick up and integrate into your child’s routine. Experiment with different strategies to see which ones your child seems to respond to best and to see the difference mindfulness can make.
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