If a child is calm, she can more easily rise to the challenges that come her way.

Calmness is that state where you’re relaxed, still and feeling peaceful. You’re not stressed by everyday worries and you’re not bored or feeling dulled. Your mind is still and peaceful. Your body is also still and quiet. You aren’t bothered by aches, pains, hunger or sensations and smells around you. It’s a feeling of having energy that can be directed to a task or activity with relative ease.

A state of calm is often referred to as being in the ‘here and now’, meaning that you feel focused with a quiet mind, ready to take on whatever presents itself. You don’t worry about being interrupted or distracted and are able to maintain your focus.

How spark* helps children become calm

In spark*, we use the simple act of breathing and paying attention to our breath coming in and out of our body to help reach a state of calm. Our hope is to help the child first reach a state of calm by paying attention to her breathing. This helps the child learn to just be, not worrying about doing or thinking anything. It is like a ‘blank-page calm’ with no plans and nothing interfering with this state.

The child gets the chance to experience that wonderful state of peace, that calm mind. She learns that silence and paying attention to her breath can be refreshing. Through this process she learns what her body feels like when she’s relaxed and at peace. This then helps her begin to identify how her body and brain feel when she experiences stress or anxiety. I’ve found that most children with autism as well as many non-autistic people (“normies”) have a hard time figuring out what their bodies do under stress. The contrast of calmness gives them that chance to find out what early signals may be as stress levels increase.

Adults becoming calm

Something that we’ve learned when using spark* is that the adults presenting it also need to be calm and to center themselves before working with children. I know from years of experience that children with autism are ’emotional sponges’. They tend to absorb the emotions around them and often don’t interpret or fully understand those emotions. It’s up to us who are working or living with children with autism to learn how to calm and center ourselves so we don’t agitate them and inadvertently make learning more difficult.

Try a breathing meditation yourself to experience the state of calm that can be achieved. Try this guided meditation with Lori Granger.

I recommend that you practice these calming activities several times a week for at least a few weeks so you can develop that sense of calm. Also, before starting a session with children, allow yourself a few minutes of breathing so you’re in an appropriate state for working on self-regulation.

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