Focusing on the present: an exploration of mindfulness based intervention in a special school for adolescents on the autistic spectrum
By Teresa Wheeler
Mindfulness, meditation practice based upon Buddhist philosophy (Wilson, 2014) has been increasingly used within the Western world in order to enhance mental health and emotional well-being (Shapiro, 2009). Mindfulness interventions with young people have thus far appeared to be effective in aiding mental health (Burke, 2009), attention skills (Semple, Reid & Miller, 2005) and learning (Napoli, Krech & Holley, 2005). Research into the use of Mindfulness with young people who have Special Educational Needs (SEN) in particular Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is limited to small clinical populations. Utilising a mixed methods research design this thesis explored the feasibility of using the .b Mindfulness course with a group of adolescents who have ASD. It aimed to evaluate whether learning mindfulness had an effect on levels of mindfulness, self-concept, anxiety and anger. Accounts of the participants' experiences are also collected and analysed in order to gain insight into their thoughts and feelings about using mindfulness as an intervention. Quantitative findings for the participant group as a whole indicated that there were no significant changes in any of the areas measured. However, the data was also examined on a case by case basis which showed that some of the individual participants' experienced large changes particularly in the areas of anger and anxiety. Thematic Analysis was used to explore the experiences and thoughts of the participants about the intervention. These findings were grouped into themes and discussed in detail. Factors which appear to have impacted upon the quantitative findings include engagement with home practice, social support, personal interest and relevance of Mindfulness. These findings were discussed and the implications for Educational Psychologists as well as school staff were identified.