Mindfulness for pupils studying at a specialist school
15 November 2017
Research has shown that practising mindfulness can have many positive benefits, from reducing stress and anxiety to helping with depression and eating disorders. This has prompted many in the education sector to look at how mindfulness can be used in the classroom to improve children’s mental health and build up their resilience. But what exactly is mindfulness and how can it be used at a specialist school?
Mindfulness is about bringing our attention to the present moment. Whilst it seems like a relatively new concept, its roots lie in ancient traditions. A typical practice involves sitting and breathing slowly in and out, while paying attention to the breath. The idea is that by bringing stillness to the body, people begin to see that thoughts – both negative and positive – are transient. For those who are prone to ruminating, mindfulness techniques can help prevent a spiral down into negative thought patterns.
Inspired by many of the positive reports I had read, I decided to pilot a mindfulness programme at Limespring School. Almost immediately, we noticed a difference in pupils’ behaviour and wellbeing.
All pupils now follow Paws B, a mindfulness programme that was developed specifically for children aged 7 to 11. Children with learning disabilities can often suffer higher levels of stress and anxiety. They can worry about tasks they find challenging and go over past mistakes. By doing this programme, pupils develop a greater understanding of their own brains. They see that it is possible to control their own thoughts; and to retrain their mind to respond differently to challenges and stress.
Teachers encourage children to pay attention to their habits and to bring their focus back to the present when their mind wanders. The programme also encourages them to develop a curious, kind and open attitude, with regard to themselves and others; and greater resilience when faced with difficulties.
However, for pupils with learning disabilities, mindfulness can have an important added benefit. Research has shown that mindfulness can help dyslexic children to improve their reading skills.
And having witnessed first hand the positive effect mindfulness has had on our pupils, many of our staff have been encouraged to take it up as well!