Improve Psychological Well-Being of Children with Learning Disabilities with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness is a practice that can help children with LD manage stress and anxiety • Daily meditation gives children a relaxation tool they can call upon when stress levels rise” – Marcia Eckerd
Learning disabilities are quite common, affecting an estimated 4.8% of children in the U.S. These disabilities present problems for the children in learning mathematics, reading and writing. These difficulties, in turn, affect performance in other academic disciplines. The presence of learning disabilities can have serious consequences for the psychological well-being of the children, including their self-esteem and social skills. In addition, anxiety, depression, and conduct disorders often accompany learning disabilities.
Mindfulness training has been shown to lower anxiety and depression and to improve self-esteem and social skills, and to improve conduct disorders. It has also been shown to improve attention, memory, and learning and increase success in school. So, it would make sense to explore the application of mindfulness training for the treatment of children with severe learning disabilities.
In today’s Research News article “A Mindfulness-Based Intervention Pilot Feasibility Study for Elementary School Students with Severe Learning Difficulties: Effects on Internalized and Externalized Symptoms from an Emotional Regulation Perspective.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871167/ ), Malboeuf-Hurtubise and colleagues recruited children with severe learning disabilities who were 9 to 12 years of age and attended a special education class. They received an 8-week mindfulness training program that met once a week for 60 minutes and included body scan, walking, and breath meditations. The children also practiced in class once a week for 30 minutes. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, aggression, attention, and conduct problems.
They found that in comparison to the baseline measurements, after mindfulness training the children evidenced significant improvements in anxiety, depression, aggression, attention, and conduct problems. Hence, after mindfulness training the children showed significant improvements in their psychological well-being and behavior. It should be noted that this was a pilot study and did not contain a control or comparison condition. So, firm conclusions cannot be made. But the results are sufficiently interesting and the magnitude of the effects large enough, that they support the conduct of a large scale randomized controlled clinical trial. If mindfulness training can be definitively shown to improve the psychological well-being and behavior of children with learning disabilities, it will be of great benefit in relieving at least some of the suffering of these unfortunate children.
So, improve psychological well-being of children with learning disabilities with mindfulness.
“Study outcomes suggest that mindful meditation decreases anxiety and detrimental self-focus, which, in turn, promotes social skills and academic success for students with learning disabilities” – Kristine Burgess
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Malboeuf-Hurtubise, C., Lacourse, E., Taylor, G., Joussemet, M., & Ben Amor, L. (2017). A Mindfulness-Based Intervention Pilot Feasibility Study for Elementary School Students with Severe Learning Difficulties: Effects on Internalized and Externalized Symptoms From an Emotional Regulation Perspective. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 22(3), 473–481. http://doi.org/10.1177/2156587216683886
Students with severe learning disabilities often show signs of anxiety, depression, and problem behaviors such as inattention and conduct problems. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) in school settings constitute a promising option to alleviate these co-occurring symptoms. This pilot study aimed to evaluate the impact of an MBI on symptoms and behaviors of elementary school students with severe learning disabilities.
A one-group pretest-posttest design was used. The sample comprised 14 students aged 9 to 12 years with special education needs. Both student-report and teacher-report of the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition were used.
Repeated-measures analyses of variance revealed a significant impact of the MBI on symptoms and behaviors such as anxiety, depression, inattention, aggression, and conduct problems. Effect sizes for all variables were considered large (partial η2 = .31-.61).
These preliminary results indicate that MBIs can reduce the frequency of symptoms and problem behaviors often found in children with learning disabilities in elementary schools. Further multiple baseline experimental trials with a long-term follow-up are warranted to establish more robustly the effect of MBIs for children with learning disabilities.