Could Meditation be Key in Treating Autism?
If you are a parent of an autistic child you no doubt spend a great deal of time keeping up with the new Autism treatments we all hear about. Whether it be vigilantly searching the autism news sites daily, making sure you read every article that comes across your Facebook newsfeeds, or simply paying close attention to the pieces of information provided to you in the support group you frequent, we all keep up with the news that pertain to our children. Things such as the GFCF diet, various medications, the widely studied oxytocin nasal spray treatment, and so forth are almost certainly on your mind frequently. Well, there is another potentially helpful treatment method to bring to the forefront of parental discussions--how many parents have thought about using mediation as a treatment for our mild to moderately functioning (ASD 1-2) autistic children?
As with all the other possibilities we’ve read about over the years, this one is worth a look. It’s inevitable that our interests will be peaked when someone mentions a new way to possibly help our child and family cope with this extensively misunderstood world we’ve found ourselves living in. So, let’s take a peek into this potential autism treatment.
The Science of Autism Treatment
According to a University of Wisconsin study Transcendental meditation and Mindfulness meditation may both be treatment routes to examine. Even though there are differences in these types of meditation they have the same primary objectives of improved cognitive and behavioral functioning. For this study researchers performed EEG’s on Buddhist monks as they mediated, the results have proven to be quite interesting. It shows that meditating gives most of the same results accredited to ingesting oxytocin. The study goes even further to claim that a person’s vagal tone response is strengthened by meditating. Science also suggests that meditating positively helps autistic children by aiding in:
• Increasing focus
• Better control of heightened senses
• Self-regulating their emotions
• Decreasing nervousness
• Building better skills to cope with challenges associated with autism
• Increasing the oxytocin levels in the brain
• Increasing empathy
• Strengthening the immune system
• Promoting self-awareness
A 2012 paper written by two researchers with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York speaks of meditation as being “a conscious process of self-regulation that tempers the flow of the thoughts, emotions, and automatic behaviors in the body and mind.” They further point out that “neurological disorders that severely impair social integration, professional development, and quality of life have found no solutions in drugs or clinician-facilitated psychology.” The conclusion of these researcher’s findings is that meditation would be beneficial in helping autistic children; additionally finding that Mantras would also, in fact, be a “feasible intervention” for smaller children.
Chanting mantras is nothing new to meditators. However it’s now thought that since language, music, and singing all share “functional networks” that, in turn, possibly singing and music could compensate for the deficits in language commonly seen in autistic children. Chanting mantras is also associated with synching respiratory signals, cerebral blood flow, and cardiovascular rhythms. Currently these researchers are working to implement their own research study to confirm their beliefs.
While scientific findings on using meditation for autism are still few, you have to admit that the findings out there are hopeful. It also has to be said that in most cases the options parents of autistic children are presented with have as little or less research then that which is available for meditation. A lot of finding the right treatment method is using your gut feelings and experience to determine what to try and what not to try. There is a great deal of trial and error associated with raising these kids, coming from a parental point of view of course. A big problem for most parents is that several of the few treatment methods available have extreme side effects associated with them. The findings for meditation seem to be quite contrary in comparison, there appears to be no negative side effects as far as this author can find. This makes it seem even more promising.