Masters Thesis

Mindfulness as a tool to reduce stress levels for students with mild to moderate disabilities

This study aimed to determine if mindfulness strategies may reduce perceived stress levels for students with mild to moderate special education eligibilities ranging from autism spectrum disorder to specific learning disability. The study consisted of six ninth and tenth grade students within a nonpublic school setting. Students were administered a series of three pre- and post-tests to establish baseline data and compare their stress levels after a mindfulness-focused curricular intervention was completed. Participants met with the researcher three days a week, for eight total weeks. Each session was 25 minutes long and took place after the participant's lunchtime. Students were taught mindfulness strategies from a modified version of the KabatZinn (2017) Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction curriculum, which was altered to fit the time allotted to work with the participants. The intervention was broken up into two phases, a meditation phase, and a physical phase. The meditation phase consisted of meditative practices like breathing and visualizing. The physical phase consisted of stretching and yoga. Half of the participants showed a decrease in stress levels, while the other half showed no significant change. Results suggest that mindfulness may benefit students with mild to moderate disabilities in decreasing their stress levels. Further research should use larger sample sizes that are randomized and include a broader range of students with various special education eligibilities in order to better inform the use of mindfulness as an effective strategy to assist secondary students to implement stress management in their lives.