Using Mindfulness to Promote Autonomy and Client-Led Sessions
Mindfulness practices are weaved throughout every session at Circles of Communication. In March of 2022, we wrote about one of our favorite mindfulness warm ups: the Mindful Minute (read about it here).
Another way we incorporate mindfulness is through emotional check-ins using a variety of visual aids and the Generation Mindful framework, during which clients are encouraged to rate their mood and energy level within one of four quadrants with the following labels on the four axes: high energy, low energy, pleasant, and unpleasant. For example, the “low energy, unpleasant” quadrant contains feelings like sadness, tiredness, disappointment, etc., whereas the “high energy, pleasant” quadrant contains feelings like happiness, surprise, or silliness. After identifying mood and energy level, we then offer clients the “Activity Selection Guide” to help them mindfully choose activities that fit their current state.
The Activity Selection Guide is a list of activity categories including ‘learn,” “move,” “relax,” “create,” etc. It encourages clients to think critically about their energy level and mood to choose session activities that either match what they are feeling or alter what they are feeling to their benefit. For example, if a client feels tired, perhaps they choose something within the “move” category such as 5 minutes of hula hooping or taking a brief walk to boost their energy level. Alternatively, a client who feels relaxed may want to maintain that state, and therefore might select an activity more aligned with relaxation.
This warm up activity can touch on so many communication and learning skills depending on clients’ unique abilities and goals. “Ideation,” or the generation of ideas, is targeted when clients are asked to brainstorm activities that fit within each category. Sequencing skills, time concepts, planning, and follow through are built into this process in the form of creating a session schedule. With varying levels of support, clients can consider the activities they want to complete and create a logical order and time budget. In the example above, it would make sense for the tired client to complete the movement activity first in an effort to raise energy levels enough that they feel regulated and ready to complete a learning activity. For clients who benefit from higher levels of support to communicate, this activity selection process can simply be modeled!
The Activity Selection Guide is aligned with our client-led philosophy, which honors autonomy, respects individual abilities, and allows clients to become active participants in their communication and learning journeys. You can use this framework at home for everything from nighttime routines to planning weekend adventures. We’ve included a digital version of the guide for you to use below!
We’d love to keep the conversation going via email or during one of our complimentary monthly check-in calls! If there is anything we can do to further support your child, we welcome your ideas and questions. We hope your month ahead is filled with blooming flowers, fresh air, and continued growth in learning, self-expression, and communication.