You probably know by now that mindfulness can be a helpful intervention to implement in many classrooms. But what about diverse learners, like neurodivergent students? Can mindfulness be helpful for them, too?
How Mindfulness Helps All Students
More and more school districts are incorporating the powerful practice of mindfulness into their curriculum. And the research has been clear: Having a mindfulness program at your school helps all students learn. In studies, the benefits of mindfulness in the classroom have included:
- Improving student focus
- Engaging students in learning
- Strengthening teacher-student relationships
- Avoiding behavior problems
- Reducing stress and anxiety for both students and teachers
- Improving emotional regulation, or the ability to self-soothe
Why Mindfulness May Be Especially Important for Kids Who Learn and Think Differently
If you teach kids with diverse learning needs, like in a special education classroom, the thought of implementing mindfulness might sound intimidating to you. Teaching students with diverse learning needs is a unique challenge.
The strategies that are suggested for teaching neurotypical children may have not worked in your classroom — which may have made you feel skeptical about implementing yet another new technique.
But mindfulness might be especially important for kids who learn and think differently. Neurodivergent students, like kids with autism or kids who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), often feel overstimulated by sensory experiences.
For example, sounds in the classroom might be loud and overwhelming to them. They also can have a harder time listening to and following through with instructions. Understandably, school can sometimes be an anxiety-provoking experience for these kids.
Mindfulness can provide these kids with a special way to calm themselves and regulate their emotions. It can also re-engage them in learning and improve their overall education experience.
The research supports this. One study found that a group of kids with autism spectrum disorder had fewer social communication problems, and better emotional and behavioral functioning, after going through a mindfulness program. Another review found that mindfulness-based interventions were effective for improving attention in kids with ADHD.
The studies that have been conducted so far are inconclusive, and we need more research to be able to say for sure whether mindfulness can be used as a direct intervention for autism and ADHD. But it does suggest that teachers of diverse learners can absolutely use mindfulness practices in their classrooms with success.
How You Can Use Mindfulness to Help Diverse Learners in Your School District
Don’t exclude diverse learners and special education classrooms from experiencing the power of mindfulness! At the same time, you might find that some mindfulness exercises that have worked for neurotypical kids aren’t as successful for your diverse learners.
Here are some things to keep in mind when using mindfulness to help diverse learners in your school district:
Have realistic expectations
Autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental conditions are chronic. No matter how “successful” the mindfulness lessons are, these students may have different challenges with mindfulness than neurotypical students. And that’s okay! Have realistic expectations going into this. What would you like to gain by implementing mindfulness in your classroom? What would you like your students to gain?
There are so many unique and special strengths that our neurodivergent students have. Find these strengths, and play to them during mindfulness lessons. For example, they may be more attuned to sensory experiences, especially soothing ones.
Make mindfulness accessible
Many neurodivergent kids and adults drop out of mindfulness programs because the programs just don’t work for them. For example, completing a body scan, for them, may cause increased anxiety. Understand this, and work to make mindfulness as accessible as possible — for all types of learners.
Part of this might mean learning from your students themselves. When they tell you something isn’t working for them, pay attention, and work together to figure out what might be a better option.
Calm Classroom’s school-based mindfulness program can be used for all types of diverse learners. Get in touch with us today to learn more.