Asperger’s Syndrome and Mindfulness: One Dad’s Story

A recent edition of Mindfulness had an interesting application story that I wanted to share with you.

A father wrote about his experience using mindfulness to help both himself and his twin sons, who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Father and son mindfulness meditation As you know, Asperger’s Syndrome has numerous symptoms, including difficulty transitioning between activities, an inability to pick up on social cues, preoccupation with a few favorite subjects, and a preference for a set, familiar schedule.

Jack Russell wrote about the challenges and the delights of having special needs children but I was especially struck when he said mindfulness allowed him to enjoy his time with them more, as well as find some inner peace.

By focusing on the present moment, he wasn’t always dreading the possible upheaval that transitioning or change could bring, but instead taking in the joy of the moment.

Where before he was upset that he never got any “me” time, he realized that every moment, whether driving in the car or going grocery shopping, could be mindful “me” time.

In addition to being happier himself, he was also able to provide his sons with tools to help them notice when they were becoming upset and to help them self-calm.

My hat’s off to you, Jack. I really wish that we had more resources to offer you.

There have been few studies of mindfulness programs involving participants with Asperger’s Syndrome, though the field has expanded in terms of mindfulness resources created with kids in mind.

We have created a new teleseminar series, Mindfulness and the Brain, to explore the effects of mindfulness on the brain and to expand our use applications of mindfulness meditation in health and mental health treatments.

This coming week, Sara Lazar, PhD will be discussing our current knowledge of mindfulness meditation effects on the brain in areas like:

  • Aging
  • Treating pain
  • Immune function

For more information and to sign up for the free broadcasts, please click here.

Do you have any resources that you could recommend for someone in Jack’s situation? Please leave a comment below.

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19 Comments

  1. Neeteesha Nilmadhub, Holistic edit action &mindfulness coach,energy specialist says:

    Hello,it is heart warming to hear such shared stories as Jack’s.i dedicate my work as a meditation and mindfulness coach to both Adults and children of school ages, including children with dyspraxia,autism,and learning difficulties. I see first hand and witness the transformation once the mind becomes aware of the here and now,freeing itself of negative clutter & thoughts and experiencing balance in energy,peace,inner love and lasting joy. The release of anxiety,fear,other self harming emotions through meditation empowers the subject to self heal,take ownership and set personal goals based on desires in the passing moment. often the realisation that everything passes,and that it is of one’s own choosing whether to dwell the mind on the memories of what passed or not. the realisation that life is in motion,a journey experienced through thoughts & emotions. Holistic meditation with mindfulness allows a process to begin. First we become aware of our physical self,sensing and releasing tension & stress as they emerge…regulating,restoring and calming through breathing techniques,then using guided meditation we tidy away thoughts,through visualisation and self affirmations,cutting cords consciously..we then focus on deeper layers of consciousness,allowing emotions to surface safely to be mindful of how we feel in the here and now. using chakra/energy healing,colour therapy and sound vibrational energy healing we restore balance,raising the energy vibrancy on all levels,spiritual,physical,emotional,mental,environmental,etc…to shift blockages…the feedback and transformation in how one feels towards life moving forward,is astonishing!kids respond well to meditation and mindfulness…colour therapy,visualisation techniques etc. faith at the end of the day is restored,in self, others,life,and the universe.
    I wish Jack and his family love and light in abundance.

  2. Will Lopez says:

    Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the internet the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people think about worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  3. asperger's says:

    My brother recommended I might like this blog. He was totally right. This post truly made my day. You cann’t consider simply how so much time I had spent for this information! Thank you!

  4. annie says:

    A family member has 2 sons with Aspergers…..different levels and degrees…..
    Upon diagnosis, she became aware that her Ex-husband has Aspergers. Parents of asperger children, mostly women, in her support group are all divorced from their male partners, who have Aspergers. Whilst I am aware that there are women who have this condition, is it largely a male issue ? It would appear hereditary ?
    She and I have discussed and she is considering having the discussion with her sons, the subject of not having children and potentially passing this on. She is working strongly in assisting them to become persons who will be able to have a ‘healthier’ relationships with potential partners, to recognise and consider their state of being and have happier lives……where hers is not

  5. Silvia says:

    Many Aspergers are low toned and very flexible. The yoga helps release the tension ( reoccurring theme in thread ) . It really has made a great difference.

    Thanks for sharing all the post. Wishing you all a smooth road on your journey with Aspergers and family.

  6. Silvia says:

    Greetings to all on this thread.

    I have a ten year old son with Aspergers.
    He is a great kid but like many Individuals with Aspergers he is anxious all the time. One of the techniques I have been using with him is a meditation called “Soles of the Feet” this is a mindfulness technique you can google. It is great for younger kids. I also use super brain yoga ( this can be viewed on YouTube). These are both great exercises for mindfulness and breathing with kiddos that have a difficult time sitting still. You will have to modal and assist in the beginning. Last but not least we began taking up yoga. This takes mindfulness to a new level. Many Aspergers

  7. Emilie says:

    I have a 36 year old son with Asperger’s. He was not diagnosed until about 4 years ago. At that time I began an indepth study of Asperger’s in adults and have since done professional trainings for colleagues in working with these individuals. I have several men with Asperger’s that I treat in my practice. I taught my son mindfulness skills years ago as I saw him struggling with making decisions, transitioning, with being hyper-focused on things. He has found these skills to be extremely valuable and it has helped him cope with some very stressful situations with much greater comfort than before. I learned mindfulness as a practice as a result of leading DBT therapy. My son uses mindfulness also to notice subtle changes in his body, or in the body posture and facial expression of others, to interprete emotions in others and increase his self-awareness. Mindful awareness continues to be an external skill and does not come naturally to him, but more and more he reports being able to use it intentionally with success. His anxiety is much decreased, with is probably one of the most potent evidences of the benefit for him, and his relationship with his wife is much improved, as he has learned to listen to her and validate her opinions when they are different from his own.

  8. Graham says:

    Responding to Gwen:
    Consider, also, the “other” EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique, a type of energy psychology practice sometimes referred to as meridian tapping, and looks alot like Thought Field Therapy. My clients have often reported quite rapid changes. The first step is always to have the client notice what feelings come up, and this self-monitoring is repeated during the process; in this sense, there seems to be a mindful component to this practice. The other notable feature is use of acupressure points; this seems to reinforce the idea that body-oriented practices are helpful.

  9. Cheryle says:

    The best tool for a parent or partner of someone with Aspergers is Common Sense and USE IT.
    To the lady with the grandson afraid of driving LISTERN to him with ADHD and OCD on depression meds he should not be driving and his fear is founded and very real – however my 18year old daughter [with Aspergers]has chosen not to get a licience as she feels her ability to fall fully into daydream focus would make her a hazard to other drivers – I agreed but suggested if she likes she can learn how to drive in case of an emergency – so she knows she does have a choise – Therefore if the young man learns how, so he has the basics [in case of an emergency] with the pressure off, [of having to get a licence, having to drive daily and the "what happens if scenarios"] – he may find that it is something he can do [there are always defencive driver courses]- one of the best and safest drivers I know is my 47 year old Aspergers friend

  10. Thanks, Ruth. This seems a particularly obvious use of mindfulness based work at least for focusing and relaxation, and I have used it with some success with three clients so far.
    Douglas Uzzell

  11. p.aduvala says:

    wonderful and very importent
    non medicinal intervention
    with great future

  12. Sunbringer says:

    I am married to a man who has never been formally diagnosed with Asberger’s, but having been educated in the area of psychology I am convinced that he is, due to many of his “quirks”. It’s not an easy life, but realizing what he deals with every day, helps me deal with him and accept his behavior more easily. Having had the epiphany of realizing that he is afflicted with this disease, has helped me cope, and love him more because of it.

  13. Gwen says:

    I have a 17 year old grandson who exhibits all the signs of Asberger’s. He has ADHD, OCD and medicated with an antidepressant. He is absolutely terrified of trying to drive. He does not even want to try. When questioned by his mother he said he was afraid that he wouldn’t react quick enough if he were in a dangerous situation while driving. Does anyone else with a child with this diagnosis know if there is anyway to help this boy in this situation? I welome any help you can give me. I have also heard of a therapy called rapid eye movement training used for PTSD and want to know if anyone has an experience with this therapy.

  14. mimw says:

    As a therapist who is working with Emotionally Focused Therapy, that employs the use of mindfulness and attachment theory, I have found it to be of a benefit to both me and my teenage daughter who has Aspergers and mood disorder. Our attempts to practice guided mindfulness with her, seems to scare her. My guess is that this has something to do with frightening internal images/sensations? She gets so upset, she refuses or feels she cannot stay with it. Perhaps as she matures we can explore it more.

    I guess I have always used mindfulness so I can enjoy our time together. In our situation, I still find myself drained more often than not. I realize that there can be a lot of good outcome for this diagnosis, but I feel the public does not know or care about how exhausting this condition can be for caregivers.

  15. Jane says:

    Jack Russell’s article detailing his experience with a son with Asperger’s and mindfulness practice was a fascinating find because his experience reinforced discoveries I have made with my own twin son with Asperger’s Syndrome. After reading about how Mindfulness practice was helping PTSD sufferers, I realized that my 11 year old son was exhibiting behaviors that looked like PTSD, specifically, he was re-experiencing the physical symptoms of subjectively traumatic events whenever his memory of those events was triggered. Although he had not experienced any classically traumatic events, such as violence or abuse, we knew that his reactions to many otherwise ordinary events of childhood differed significantly from his twin brother’s reactions and surmised that some otherwise ordinary experiences (for example: riding in a car through a drive-through car wash when he was 18 months old) were subjectively traumatic for him as a young, pre-verbal child. This connection to PTSD was an epiphany for me as his parent and has drmatically improved my ability to find therapies, such as mindfulness practices, that are helping him recover from past traumas and to be more in touch with his emotions and body, to self calm, and to begin to view his experiences and reactions from a distance. Although my son did not take well to direct attempts at mindfulness mediation, we have found fun ways to sidestep into mindful practices through Susan Kaiser Greenland’s book, The Mindful Child. I highly recommend this book to other parents/therapists working with children with Asperger’s Syndrome.

  16. Daimon says:

    Owen, thanks for sharing that information and insight about the greater bodily tension. What is MSRP (not Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, I’m assuming)?

    From yours plus what Monica and Barbara say, it seems that focusing on body sensations and inner awareness related to them is a fruitful path.

    I wonder if dissociation from bodily sensations could be causal in part for Asperger’s? Being dissociated from the body would help explain the difficulty picking up social cues as well. If so then resolving the causes, or at least the behavior, of dissociation would be useful.

  17. Owen Marcus says:

    As a man who healed much of his Asperger’s, dyslexia and dyspraxia I can say mindfulness works.

    15 years ago we started a MSRP business in Phoenix that took off. What I learned from that program and my personal experience along with my ongoing practice is that the body oriented practices are the most effective. The more mental practices often would produce more stress; at least they would until the body was relaxed.

    Every client with Asperger’s I have seen came to me with an above average about of body tension. Relaxing the mind was virtually impossible until the body relaxed.

  18. Monica deMello says:

    Greetings! I have not worked with young children but had the pleasure and delight of meeting a female college student with Aspergers. She enrolled in my yoga and meditation course. She enagaged in all of the activity with a sense of fun and Beginner’s Mind. She accepted the idea of closing eyes and bringing herself deep inside more readily than her peers without Aspergers. This then enabled her to more fully experience listening, breathing, etc as objects of meditation. She also was not inhibited to question and discuss her experiences again in comparison to the other college students who were more inhibited to share.

  19. Dear Ruth and Jack –
    Ruth mentioned “…By focusing on the present moment, …” There is a practice called “focusing” that could help in this (and many other) situations. As it happens, I have worked (very briefly!) with a boy with Asperger’s and he was able to sit still (for him) for 30 minutes while he explored his inner world. He drew and spoke, all the while relating to how his body was with all the feelings, sensations, thoughts, and urges he was experiencing – and in a strange environment at that! I hope this is helpful!
    Warmly, Barbara Dickinson, C.F.T.

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