How a Daily Mindfulness Practice Helps Students With Learning Differences
By Justin Hancock, TJS Learning Specialist
At The Joy School, we serve a variety of students with learning differences and diagnoses. Some of our common diagnoses are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and anxiety. Our Learning Specialists understand that developing activities to support students’ diagnoses can help improve students’ social-emotional skills and academic goals as well.
Mr. Justin, TJS Learning Specialist, builds his students’ focus and attention skills in class is through a daily mindfulness practice. It has been shown that mindfulness practices can improve not only attention but other symptoms of ADHD such as difficulties with executive functioning skills. Mindfulness is also a great tool for easing anxiety. And, whether our students’ have an ADHD diagnosis, anxiety diagnosis or another diagnosis or learning difference, mindfulness has myriad other benefits to help students in class. Read on to learn about Mr. Justin’s mindfulness practice, how he sees it benefitting his students and some suggestions for ways to practice mindfulness with kids at home.
1. Why do you have students practice mindfulness before class?
I use mindfulness each day to help students transition into the classroom, acknowledge distracting thoughts or sounds and set a tone of calm and focus - like a warm, caramel center. Mrs. Garcia and I start each morning with a few minutes of mindfulness shared with both classes, where we focus on breathing calmly and where we frame our expectations for the day. We also use shorter sessions throughout the day to help us refocus or let go of the feelings and distractions that build up naturally.
2. What is the benefit of a mindfulness practice for students?
Studies have shown that a regular practice of mindful breathing can help reduce anxiety, improve focus and self-regulation and encourage awareness of self and surroundings which are directly aligned with many of The Joy School’s Keys to Success and the skills and strategies that our students develop in relation to their specific learning differences. Learning how to acknowledge our thoughts and manage our feelings are important pieces of development and well-being for children and adults.
3. How long have you been practicing mindfulness with your students?
I was introduced to mindfulness in the classroom while I was a teacher for YES Prep Public Schools, but it became cemented into my classroom routines after I joined The Joy School. In my first year, Ms. Anastasia and Nurse Rachel shared some readings and practices in a training that encouraged me to implement mindfulness more. In my second year, Dr. Kimberly B. Harrison of The Conative Group expanded upon this further with research related to learning differences and the benefits of mindful breathing. I’ve also learned some great techniques from Ms. Farah and Ms. Grimm, who use mindfulness daily as well.
4. How can families, kids and even adults implement mindfulness into their routine?
For anyone interested in easy ways to bring mindfulness into their daily routine, I would recommend The Headspace Guide to Meditation, which is available on Netflix. It’s a relaxing introduction to breathing and mindfulness techniques that generally avoids being overly “woo-woo.” For families with young children, the Slumberkins storybooks, Yeti, and, The Feels, offer kid-friendly practices that are appropriate for young children and lower elementary students.
If you love what you've just read, be sure to share the JOY, and share this with a friend, family member or on social media!
About the Author
Justin Hancock has been teaching, mentoring and developing education programs for ten years. He has a passion for helping individuals achieve their dreams. Justin believes his mission goes beyond helping students achieve academic success and extends to promoting well-being, creative problem solving, and awareness of the self and others. He is proud to teach at The Joy School, because he believes students with learning differences deserve specific, tailored instruction that meets them where they are.
Bachelor of Science in Economics with a minor in Business from Texas A&M University