MYmind: Mindfulness Training for Adolescents with Autism and Their Parents

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 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 consisted of nine 1.5 hour group therapy sessions at Geneva Centre for Autism. Parent and adolescent group sessions were run at the same time in separate rooms. Program sessions were made up of approximately 5 teens/parents, 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 several 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 daily.

Before the start of mindfulness training, participants came to Geneva Centre on four separate occasions to complete screening and baseline research assessments. Throughout the training, both parents and adolescents completed short online surveys 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 benefitted from 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 diagnosis of autism participated along with one or both of their parents. Participants had at least average intellectual functioning and verbal skills. Participants were able to participate in a group setting with other adolescents with autism and their parents.

What will we do with our research findings?

The research portion of MYmind aims to evaluate the effectiveness of the nine-week intervention program. 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 autism. Also, 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 autism 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 summary of our findings to post on this website.

What is the next step?

We have recruited 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?

For more information, please feel free to contact Dr. Jonathan Weiss, Principal Investigator on the study, at jonweiss@yorku.ca, or Paula Tablon, Project Coordinator, at tablonp@yorku.ca.

Publication

Salem-Guirgis, S., Albaum, C., Tablon, P., Burnham Riosa, P., Nicholas, D. B., Drmic, I. E., & Weiss, J. A. (2019). Mymind: A concurrent group-based mindfulness intervention for youth with autism and their parents. Mindfulness. doi: 10.1007/s12671-019-01107-9.

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 was supported by NeuroDevNet. Additional funding is provided by the Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorders Treatment and Care Research.