What's this project about?
Previous research has shown that mindfulness not only helps to improve attention and focus, but can also be effective in reducing stress, increasing control over negative feelings and improving quality of life. The MYmind: a mindfulness-training program was designed for adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their parents. Originally developed and tested by Dr. Susan Bogels in the Netherlands, MYmind will allow families to experience the benefits of mindfulness meditation and cognitive therapy techniques while learning to relate to one another in a new way.
How did we go about doing this research?
The program consistsed of nine 1.5 hour group therapy sessions at Geneva Centre for Autism. Parent and adolescent group sessions were run at the same time, however, the two groups met separately. Adolescent sessions were made up of approximately 5 teens at a time, a therapist and a graduate student facilitator. Parent sessions also included a therapist and graduate student facilitator; one or both parents participated.
During each of the 1.5 hour sessions, adolescents learned a number of breathing meditations, mindfulness exercises and yoga. Parent sessions consisted of breathing meditations, mindfulness exercises and yoga. Between sessions, adolescents and parents practiced the skills they’ve learned from the previous week on a daily basis.
Prior to the start of mindfulness training, participants came to Geneva Centre on four separate occasions to complete screening and baseline research assessments. During the course of the training, both parents and adolescents were asked to complete a short online survey at the beginning of each week. After the program, each family completed two additional research assessments: one immediately following the end of the program, and one 10 weeks later.
Families who participated received personal benefit in the form of more positive family interactions, less conflict, reduction in problem behaviours, and reduction in stress. Adolescents received a $20 gift card as a thank you for their time spent completing questionnaires in connection with this study at the end of the project.
Who was involved?
Adolescents between 13-22 years of age with a previous diagnosis of high-functioning ASD participated along with one or both of their parents. Participants had at least average intellectual functioning and verbal skills. Participants was able to participate in a group setting with other adolescents with ASD and their parents.
What will we do with our research findings?
The aim of the research portion of MYmind is to evaluate the effectiveness of the nine-week intervention program and the results of this study will expand our understanding of the effectiveness of mindfulness training in reducing stress and increasing control over negative feelings for adolescents with ASD. In addition, this study will enable us to gain a better understanding of mindfulness as a tool to improve the quality of the relationships between adolescents with ASD and their parents. We will write an article summarizing our findings to submit to an academic journal, present the results at national and international conferences, and create a brief summary of our findings to post on this website.
What is the next step?
Since 2014, we have recruited of 3 groups of adolescents and their parents, with a total of 23 families participating in the project.
Data collection is complete and data analysis is currently underway.
Want to know more about this project?
Presentations, Public Appearances & Media
Salem-Guirgis, S., Weiss, J. A., Drmic, I., & Nicholas, D. (2016, November). Mindfulness-Based Therapy for Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Parents. Paper presented at the 33rd Annual Conference of the National Association for the Dually Diagnosed (NADD), Niagara Falls, ON.
Weiss, J. A. (2016, October). Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Approaches for Youth and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Invited Presentation at the JFK Partners 4th Annual Autism Spectrum Disorder Conference, Aurora, USA.
Salem, S., Ting, V., Maughan, A., Drmic, I., Nicholas, D., & Weiss, J. (2015, September). MYmind: Mindfulness based therapy for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and their parents. Poster presented at NeuroDevNet Brain Development Conference, Ottawa, ON.
This project is supported by NeuroDevNet. Additional funding is provided by the Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorders Treatment and Care Research.