People with disabilities
The first point required in discussing working with people with a disability is that people with disabilities are as unique and individualised as anyone else and attempting to apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach is unhelpful and disrespectful. Therefore, initially I draw your attention back to the person-centred and strength-based approaches discussed above.
Clients with physical disabilities will generally be able to engage in mindfulness practice without modification, so long as your venue and delivery provides for accessibility and physical comfort. Statistically speaking, up to 15% of people with intellectual disabilities and up to 95% of people with autism spectrum disorder display some form of challenging behaviours. These may include aggressive, self-injurious, destructive, and/or disruptive behaviours. Mindfulness practice has been
shown to have a positive effect on the mental and physical wellbeing of adults and young people with disabilities, including a reduction in the severity and frequency of challenging behaviours.
Mindfulness is also known to reduce or alleviate anxiety, depression and stress-related psychological symptoms.
It is important to note that mindfulness is only effective when engaged in willingly by the client who is choosing to engage and learn. Longer term training and repetition may be required, as well as the flexibility to work alongside family members and support workers. This related directly back to working in a person-centred way, with the needs of the person in the room.
It is recommended that mindfulness practitioners wanting to work with people with intellectual disabilities gain additional training and experience in the disability space, or to work alongside an experienced practitioner. While mindfulness practices can be beneficial, their instructions and training may need to be adjusted to meet the learning needs of the client.
Read the following article.
Idusohan-Moizer, H., Sawicka, A., Dendle, J., & Albany, M. (2015). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for adults with intellectual disabilities: an evaluation of the effectiveness of mindfulness in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 59(2), 93–104. https://doi.org/10.1111/jir.12082