Mindfulness for Kids with ADHD



Mindfulness is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot in the ADHD community, but what exactly is Mindfulness? Why is everyone talking about it? And how exactly does it work?

Mindfulness can be described as paying attention to the present moment without judging thoughts, emotions or physical sensations. Experts estimate that we participate in 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day, and as those thoughts roll through our mind, we tend to label them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and then follow up with an emotional ‘reaction’ that we feel is appropriate to the label. If we decide a thought is ‘bad’ we follow up with anger, sadness, guilt, anxiety or fear. If

we label the thought as ‘good’ we follow up with excitement, joy, hope, arousal, etc.

Now, imagine a child with ADHD and amp up the amount of thoughts and the intensity of the emotional reactions to those thoughts. Add on sensory processing issues, hyperactivity and/or distractibility, an uncooperative executive function system and the inability to stay focused on anything not deemed “interesting” by the brain! All of that excess processing and reacting is taking up precious mental space and energy, and getting in the way of the incredible gifts the ADHD brain has to offer!

Mindfulness is a perfect tool to teach kids to manage their ADHD and bring their focus back to the present moment. It also helps in developing individuals’ inner skills by creating different relationships to experiences that are stressful. It improves their ability to control attention levels (by strengthening their ability to self-observe) and to train attention. In other words, it teaches them to ‘pay attention to paying attention’, and can also make them more aware of their emotional state, so they won’t react impulsively.

A groundbreaking study came out in 2008 called ‘Mindfulness Meditation Training in Adults and Adolescents’ by Dr. Lidia Zylowska and her team of researchers. They found that 78% of participants who practiced mindful awareness reported reduction in their ADHD symptoms!

Practicing Mindfulness has also been proven to:

Reduce Stress

Reduce Anxiety

Improve Cognition

Improve Attention

Reduce Depression

Reduce Pain

Improve Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

Now that you know the huge benefits of practicing mindfulness for a child with ADHD, how do you actually teach them ‘Mindfulness’? An app of course!

Actiwit, a Chicago-based company Founded at the Kellogg School of Management has launched the beta version of a biofeedback based mindfulness intervention for children with ADHD that can be accessed anywhere from a smart phone.

Biofeedback is a process whereby electronic monitoring of a normally automatic bodily function is used to train someone to acquire voluntary control of that function. In this case, the electronic monitoring is done by a headband that senses brain waves, using EEG sensors.

The child will go through the 4-week, 10-minute, daily mindfulness training while wearing the headband that tracks electrical activity. This activity from the brain is recorded and interpreted by Actiwit’s proprietary algorithm to determine the state of mind of the child in real time.

Actiwit is looking for children between the ages of 5-12, diagnosed with ADHD to participate in a feasability study for the Mindfulness Program. If you are a therapist with at least four clients that meet the age/diagnostic criteria, and you are interested in participating in the beta testing of the biofeedback based mindfulness intervention, or just have some questions, please email Actiwit CEO and Founder, Barath Anandakumar, barath@actiwit.com.

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