Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why (and how) Mindfulness and Meditation Is Useful for People On the Autism Spectrum

I'd like to make a small post about some of the things that I have learned that have helped me to be calmer and happier as an aspie adult.  I see a lot of parents have the same concerns about their kid's emotional states that  I am beginning to learn to deal with.  Techniques, tips and strategies without relying solely on meds seems to be few and far between for parents out there that are struggling with aggression, anxiety and depression with their autistic child.  Other adults may also find some of these helpful.

Without making this entry into a long drawn out science seminar, I will try to briefly explain about what I've found in all my research, and experience.  I have often (and still do) wondered how I can be such a rational, very logical calm, kind person, except when I get triggered into being upset.  Take my body image and disordered eating for example... So illogical.  Makes absolutely no sense in the way I think about it, or behave.  I can sit here and tell you that in a calm way, without much feeling at this moment.  However, if something were to happen to trigger my anxiety about those issues, my obsessive/compulsive nature would be taking over and I'd not be so rational and calm anymore.  This happens to many people with strong emotions, such as anger and anxiety, but those of us on the spectrum can often find ourselves in the middle of a minor, or even major upset and not even always know what triggered it, much less what it's all about.  This is due in part to a condition known as alexithymia.

Of course, those of us on the spectrum do have feelings, very strong powerful feelings, just as anyone else. (Sometimes, I think possibly stronger, but how can one manage to measure emotional intensity? )  This leads to my next point: how we deal with them.  The part of the brain that deals in emotions is called the limbic system.  It can be furthered explained here in this article.  (I know that artcile was primarily about  love, but it highlights the very aspects of the automatic fight or flight patterns of the brain that I wanted to discuss here in this post.)

So, how does one get that space between pure emotionally driven behavior and higher levels of cognition?  After all this is the difference between making good choices and impulsive, regrettable choices.  This cushion of fragments in time where your cognition steps in noticing the first signs of upset in the body before the limbic system is flooded with neurochemicals is important in changing behavior.

There are lots of medications out there designed to help acheive that change.  Sometimes,they work, sometimes they don't , and others cause so many side effects that it's not an improvement on life.  I tried many, many meds and have never found one to work long term. That's why I have turned to relaxation techniques, like meditation.  I'll share some of the sites that I have found some tips and how to's.   See if any seem to be a good fit for you or your child.

Wildmind Buddhist Meditation  This site offers extensive tutorials and articles for anyone interested in learning to meditate and be more relaxed.

Mindful  Lots of tips and articles.

Tiny Buddha-always something insirational here


Bringing Mindfulness To Schools