Children and adolescents with Asperger syndrome occasionally exhibit aggressive behavior against peers and parents. In a multiple baseline design across subjects, three adolescents with Asperger syndrome were taught to use a mindfulness-based procedure called Meditation on the Soles of the Feet to control their physical aggression in the family home and during outings in the community. They were taught to shift the focus of their attention from the negative emotions that triggered their aggressive behavior to a neutral stimulus, the soles of their feet. Prior to training in the mindfulness-based procedure the adolescents had moderate rates of aggression. During mindfulness practice, which lasted between 17 and 24 weeks, their mean rates of aggression per week decreased from 2.7, 2.5 and 3.2 to 0.9, 1.1, and 0.9, respectively, with no instances observed during the last 3 weeks of mindfulness practice. No episodes of physical aggression occurred during a 4-year follow-up. This study suggests that adolescents with Asperger syndrome may successfully use a mindfulness-based procedure to control their aggressive behavior.
Some individuals with autism engage in physical aggression to an extent that interferes with not only their quality of life, but also that of their parents and siblings. Behavioral and psychopharmacological treatments have been the mainstay of treatments for aggression in children and adolescents with autism. We evaluated the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based procedure, Meditation on the Soles of the Feet, in helping three adolescents to manage their physical aggression. This procedure required the adolescents to rapidly shift the focus of their attention from the aggression-triggering event to a neutral place on their body, the soles of their feet. Incidents of aggression across the three adolescents ranged from a mean of 14–20 per week during baseline, 4–6 per week during mindfulness training, including zero rates during the last 4 weeks of intervention. Aggression occurred a rate of about 1 per year during a 3-year follow-up. Our results suggest adolescents with autism can learn, and effectively use, a mindfulness-based procedure to self-manage their physical aggression over several years.