Editor’s note: Today we are excited to share a guest post from Kathleen Carter. Kathleen is a teen living with Asperger’s Syndrome. She enjoys educating her peers and others about AS. She does so by writing proudly about how her life differs from other people her age. She is so grateful to have the opportunity to write for EducatorLabs and other websites like this one.
The last two years of high school have been major times of discovery for me. Prior to high school, I was unhappy. I wasn’t doing well in school, and I had difficulty making friends. But I entered high school determined to change all of that.
The first thing I did was start swimming. I began swimming regularly in order to become more physically healthy but the benefits were much more far reaching. As this guide to swimming’s benefits for people on the autism spectrum notes, it can also provide you with an opportunity to socialize and lead to mental health benefits such as becoming less stressed. Both were true for me.
One day after a swim, I was talking to one of my instructors about the anxiety I sometimes feel at school. He suggested I try meditation. Honestly, I didn’t know much about it at the time, and I really had my doubts about how much help it would be. But I decided to give it a try anyway, and man, am I happy I did.
Here a few ways learning to meditate has benefited me:
- It helps me handle life’s challenges. I need and rely on structure. I like to have a plan for my day and stick to it. When obstacles come up that throw me off that agenda, it can be difficult for me to accept. But meditation has made it much easier for me to stop and assess these situations and then move forward accordingly. Rootsofaction.com notes that a primary goal of meditation is to become more mindful and that increased mindfulness helps you “better regulate how life circumstances impact [your] mental health.” I’ve certainly experienced that change in my life. Through meditation, I’ve gained the ability to adapt more quickly when things don’t go to plan.
- It reduces anxiety. For kids and teens with Asperger’s, anxiety is just a part of your day. School, especially, used to make me very anxious. I would worry about school assignments, exams, and what other students might think about me. But meditation has turned that anxiety into calm. The Child Mind Institute discusses meditation’s use as a way to “quiet one’s mind.” I think that is a great way to describe its effects. Before my mind used to race with tons of worrisome scenarios, and now, I am much better at simply existing in the moment without worrying about every little thing.
- It improves my ability to make good decisions. To add to my point above, because my mind isn’t racing with anxiety about everything that could go wrong, I have a sense of clarity. This paper on autism, meditation, and stress quotes a teen with autism spectrum disorder,who states that meditation has helped him make “slower and wiser life decisions.” I certainly relate to that. I wouldn’t have been able to describe it in this way at the time, but looking back, I see that prior to meditation, I didn’t make well-thought-out decisions. I reacted. And usually those split-second reactions were not in my or anyone else’s best interests.
I think meditation can have wonderful benefits for all teens. If you’re a teen who’d like to try it out, the Mindfulness for Teens website offers several guided meditations to help you get started.