The paper “Transcendental meditation for autism spectrum disorders? A perspective” published in Cogent Psychology (Volume 2, Issue 1, 2015) offers a perspective on Transcendental Meditation as a helpful form of therapy for some children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).
Autism, anxiety and stress
In the paper by David O. Black, Norman Rosenthal and Peter Walla, individuals with diagnosed ASDs were evaluated in depth as to how they had benefited from the practice of Transcendental Meditation.
Studies on non-ASDs population have previously confirmed that the Transcendental Meditation practice is an effective remedy for stress relief and trait anxiety and a means to improve self-control and emotional regulation.
Considering that stress, anxiety and poor self-regulation are among the comorbid conditions individuals with autism spectrum disorders suffer from, the TM technique was a logical candidate for a form of therapy to be investigated in autism.
Six case studies converging on two key points
The interviews for the study were conducted with children and young adults (between 10 and 30 years old) who had been diagnosed with an ASD and who had practiced TM twice every day for 15–20 minutes at least ten times a week for at least three months.
The participants’ experience suggest two common themes.
Firstly, all the subjects taking part in the study found that TM was easy to learn and practice with consistency.
Secondly, the participants found TM to be helpful in reducing stress and anxiety, improving emotional and behavior regulation, productivity, the ability to tolerate and cope in novel settings and social environments, and the capacity to transition and manage unexpected changes in routine.
Other reported benefits included increased concentration, reduced test anxiety, improved sleep patterns, reduced tantrums, and reduced physiological symptoms of stress.
While the six case studies investigated are just an initial step toward scientifically determining the fit of TM as therapy for individuals with ASDs, it undoubtedly lays significant building blocks for further research.
Black, David; Rosenthal, Norman; Walla, Peter. (2015) “Transcendental meditation for autism spectrum disorders? A perspective” Cogent Psychology, Volume 2, Issue 1