Autism affects 1-3% of the population
Autism is a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder of unknown cause that affects approximately 1 – 3 % of a given population.
Autistic people are unable to process sensory information in the usual way. Everyday stimuli are often found to be overwhelmingly intense, and as a result, people with autism find their cerebral, emotional centres are very strained. And traditional coping strategies for autism are few and far between.
As a consequence, a stress response is initiated which disrupts cognitive networks and overrides the behavioural response so that they find themselves responding differently towards family, friends and peers.
There appears to be consistent hyper-arousal of the amygdala, the engine of the stress response, and high levels of stress chemicals in the bloodstream of autistic people. Long distance connectivity issues in the brain also seem prevalent. There is an unnaturally high level of cell death in inhibitors of excitation of the brain which explains why levels of excitement and reactivity are so strong. There is also hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system.
In addition, autistic children typically face immune-digestive disorders that exacerbate social anxiety, fear and a sense of internal conflict, as well as creating all manner of physical difficulties as they age.
It is evident that the physical ailments themselves need to be addressed if we want any significant progress in coping with autism. But if we don’t address the causes of the issues, then the problems will continue unabated.
What is required is a holistic approach to coping strategies for autism – one which balances and enhances the emotional and physical well-being of autistic people as they move from childhood into adult life.
How to cope with autism using Vedic meditation
Vedic meditation works on all of the levels mentioned. The personalised mantras used have a very calming effect on all aspects of the nervous system and are particularly useful as a tool for bringing balance to the autonomic branch. This practice also calms down the activity of the amygdala, resulting in less hyperactive and inappropriate responses. Instead, the area of the brain which moderates our behaviour, the cortex, becomes more activated, balancing out any negative tendencies. Our levels of stress hormones also decrease significantly.
The globalised brain state coherence which is unique to this technique further aids the development of the connectivity between all areas of the brain, suggesting this will be particularly beneficial to those with autism.
And at the physical level, Vedic meditation is a wonderful antidote to the compromised immune functioning and digestive disorders.
Autism is an under-explored area regarding clinical trials involving meditation, but there are some very promising case studies which suggest that meditation significantly alleviates the symptoms and aids development. My colleagues and I have taught many autistic children, and we have come to the collective conclusion that they make some of the best meditators. We start them off with shorter sessions to begin with and then increase the duration as appropriate to help each individual in coping with autism.
There is very little to lose and an awful lot to gain. Autistic children will likely find that they can engage emotionally and that their awareness of others improves. At the very least we recommend parents of autistic children strongly consider learning. Coping strategies for autism should include both the person with autism and their family. The stress-load on families is pretty fierce, and in every case, parents report feeling great relief, often for the first time in years.