Minnesota LEND Fellows Partner with Community Organization to Promote Mindfulness

November 4, 2019

Families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often report chronic and high levels of stress. A group of MNLEND Fellows are partnering with a local nonprofit organization, Communities Engaging Autism (CEA), to support families as they face the challenges of raising children with ASD and other neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD).

CEA's mission is to connect young families to the information, strategies, and support they need to engage fully in their homes, schools, and communities. One of CEA's programs is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Parents of Kids with Special Needs. MNLEND Fellows Jennifer Reiter, Muna Khalif, and Adam Langenfeld, MD/PhD are working with CEA's program and its Executive Director Beth Dierker, PhD (herself a former MNLEND Fellow) in several ways. Reiter and Khalif are participating in the program with an eye toward program development and integrating mindfulness into their own lives and own communities. Langenfeld is leading the group's deep dive into research on MSBR. He hopes to evaluate the effects of MSBR training on the health and well-being of parents of children with ASD and other NDD. The goal of this partnership is to not only gain a better understanding of how MBSR can help parents reduce stress and gain overall improvements in health, but also to gather data supporting its utility as a tool for stress reduction.

The MNLEND Fellows have already started participating in the fall Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training course and are learning a great deal. According to Dierker, "We've got a great group forming this year with 9 parents of kids with special needs. Our time together so far has been thoughtful, honest, and focused. We have learned about mindfulness attitudes, talked about ways we meet resistance, and we've tried out practices, aiming to weave them into our day-to-day. We share successes, struggles, and favorite meditations, throughout the week with a chat app. I often remind myself and all of us to ‘begin again' each day." The project team also hopes to share their work at local conferences.