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This paper examines mindfulness as a popular and paradigmatic alternative healing practice within the context of contemporary medicalization trends. In recognition of the increasingly influential role popular media play in shaping ideas about illness and healing, what follows is a discursive analysis of bestselling mindfulness meditation self-help books and audio recordings by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The central and contradictory elements of this do-it-yourself healing practice as presented in these materials are best understood as aligned with medicalization trends for three principal reasons. First, mindfulness represents a significant expansion in the definition of disease beyond that advanced by mainstream medicine. Second, its etiological model intensifies the need for therapeutic surveillance and intervention. Third, by defining healing as a never-ending process, it permanently locates individuals within a disease-therapy cycle. In sum, the definition, cause, and treatment of disease as articulated by popular mindfulness resources expands the terrain of experiences and problems that are mediated by medical concepts. The case of mindfulness is a potent illustration of the changing character of medicalization itself.
OBJECTIVES: The study objectives were to develop and objectively assess the therapeutic effect of a novel movement-based complementary and alternative medicine approach for children with an autism-spectrum disorder (ASD). DESIGN: A within-subject analysis comparing pre- to post-treatment scores on two standard measures of childhood behavioral problems was used. SETTINGS AND LOCATION: The intervention and data analysis occurred at a tertiary care, medical school teaching hospital. SUBJECTS: Twenty-four (24) children aged 3-16 years with a diagnosis of an ASD comprised the study group. INTERVENTION: The efficacy of an 8-week multimodal yoga, dance, and music therapy program based on the relaxation response (RR) was developed and examined. OUTCOME MEASURES: The study outcome was measured using The Behavioral Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2) and the Aberrant Behavioral Checklist (ABC). RESULTS: Robust changes were found on the BASC-2, primarily for 5-12-year-old children. Unexpectedly, the post-treatment scores on the Atypicality scale of the BASC-2, which measures some of the core features of autism, changed significantly (p=0.003). CONCLUSIONS: A movement-based, modified RR program, involving yoga and dance, showed efficacy in treating behavioral and some core features of autism, particularly for latency-age children.