I am a pediatrician. I often work with children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Medication often can help. But there are other ways to help too. One is mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
The idea of mindfulness is to focus on what is going on in the moment, on purpose, with no judgement (Kabat-Zinn, 1994).
Research shows that these activities can help children with ADHD. This includes the following.
- Focusing on important thoughts while ignoring others.
- Help with the behaviors that get children into trouble.
- Help with control over their emotions
How Can Parents Teach This To Their Children
There are lots of ways to learn to be more mindful. One activity may work well for your child and others may not. You might have to try more than one thing with your child.
Some schools teach mindfulness activities. But not every school does. There are classes, such as children’s yoga, that can teach these skills. However, classes can be costly and hard to find. Below are some tools for parents. Many can be done at home.
Yoga is a good way to help an active child focus. For young children, I like books that show simple poses.
Older children and teens should start with a live class. This is to make sure:
- their form is correct;
- they learn how to change a hard pose to make it work for their body; and
- they know which poses should not be tried alone at home.
This helps lower the chance of injury. You should always talk to your child’s doctor before starting a new exercise program.
There are low-cost options for yoga. These include non-profit studios and community classes. These options will be different based on where you live.
Once children know how to do yoga safely, they can use online videos. There are free classes on YouTube. Do Yoga with Me is a free website.
Breathing exercises can also aid a child. These can help calm and focus the mind. Many only take a few minutes.
Common Sense Media has a list of apps for children. You can sort them by age.
These are some ideas that can be done without technology.
More info on the research behind mindfulness and ADHD is discussed in the article Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York, NY: Hyperion.
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I am a developmental-behavioral pediatrician in training. I am often asked to see children for concern about autism spectrum disorder (ASD). During my visit, I watch how children behave. I then decide if ASD is the diagnosis that best fits their behavior. I see children of all ages. This is about children less than age 3.
Why Toddlers are Different
Children with ASD tend to respond better to treatment when they are diagnosed early. (National Research Counsel, 2001). Many children can be diagnosed as young as 18 months of age. But most children are diagnosed between 3-4 years of age (Filipek, 1999).
One reason is because the early symptoms are hard to see. Some of the best-known symptoms may not show up until a child is older. These include flapping their hands and repeating parts of TV shows.
Toddlers with ASD often don’t learn the skills they need to interact with others. Children who are behind in just their ability to use language still try to interact. They will often use eye contact and gestures to work around their struggles. Children with ASD have trouble with this.
Here are some free websites and videos to help anyone who cares for young children. This information shows what we call the “red flag signs” for ASD.
Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
The website Autism Navigator talks about the early signs of autism. There is a free course with videos about toddlers with ASD. You have to register to use the site. They also have a list of red flag signs for toddlers. These include:
- not looking at someone when their name is called;
- not showing others objects they like;
- not sharing their interests with the ones they love;
- not making eye contact; and/or
- not using gestures to let people know what they want.
There are other resources on this website. However, not all of them are free.
How a Toddler with ASD Might Look
Here are some videos from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showing how a toddler with autism spectrum might look. There are also toddlers that do not have the warning signs of autism. This enables you to see how they differ. All the videos are on the CDC video library. Some of the videos are linked below.
Looking at someone when their name is called
Here is a video of a 12-month-old who responds to his name by looking at his mother and smiling. He also points at her. This is what we expect a toddler to do when their name is called.
12-month-old looking when called
Here is a video of an 18-month-old not looking at his mother when his name is called. A toddler who can hear should look when his name is called.
18-month-old child not looking when called
This video shows a 13-month-old stacking cups. He involves his father and gives him the cups. Many toddlers seek out their loved ones when playing.
13-month-old toddler playing with father
Here is a 17-month-old toddler who is not showing pretend play with a phone. He also does not copy the adult when she tries to show him how to use it. These are both warning signs of ASD.
17-month-old toddler not showing pretend play
Twins and a train
The last video shows a set of twins, who are 19 months old.
- The first one does not have signs of ASD. He likes to push the train back and forth with his mother.
- The second twin does have signs of ASD. He needs to be asked to push the train. He also does not seem to enjoy playing with his mother.
19-month-old twins pushing train
The Importance of Those Who Care for Children
Parents and early-childhood workers interact with young children the most. They often are the first to know something is wrong. They can be important to get a child with ASD the help they need. These links and videos can help anyone who is interested better know the warning signs for ASD.
Filipek, P. e. (1999). The screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 439-484.
National Research Counsel. (2001). Educating children with autism. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.