Mindfulness Yoga Helps Children with Cerebral Palsy Focus Attention, Study Reports

Mindfulness Yoga Helps Children with Cerebral Palsy Focus Attention, Study Reports

MiYoga, a mindfulness-based movement program, can enhance attention and the ability to consistently complete tasks in children with cerebral palsy, a study reports.

The study, “Effect of mindfulness yoga programme MiYoga on attention, behaviour, and physical outcomes in cerebral palsy: a randomized controlled trial,” was published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.

Previous studies suggest that almost half of all children with cerebral palsy suffer from intellectual disability that can be evidenced in a poor ability to focus attention or ti complete tasks.

Yoga is a mindfulness practice that combines movement with focused attention. Mindfulness practices include focusing on something specific. This could include an object, your breath, or a simple saying.

Studies in adults suggest that mindfulness-based practices improve attention and memory capacity. But studies in children have not clearly established a role for such exercises.

Researchers examined how a type of mindfulness yoga, called MiYoga, might help children with cerebral palsy to focus attention and complete tasks.

Forty-two children, along with their parents, were randomized to participate in eight weeks of the MiYoga program or be placed on a waiting list as a control group.

The MiYoga program involved an explorer theme, keyed to a child’s sense of curiosity. The program included six 90-minute sessions over the first six weeks, followed by telephone consultations that encouraged participants to incorporate their yoga exercises at home.

Most (90%) participants completed the eight-week program. Children on the waiting list group were not required to participate in any activity or exercise.

Researchers evaluated program effectiveness using the Conners’ Continuous Performance Test (CCPT) — a computer-based test that displays letters at various intervals and asks children to type in the letters.  This test can measure the amount of time it takes to process information, the error rate, and impulsivity (typing before seeing a letter).

Children who participated in the mindfulness program showed improved attention and ability to focus, the researchers report.

They had lower error rates and fewer impulsive acts on the CCPT, compared to children in the waiting group.

Further analysis also showed that sustained attention was significantly better in the MiYoga group than in children serving as controls.

Secondary measures, those not looking at attention and task-following, were not as positive. The MiYoga program participation did not improve measures of psychological well-being  or quality of life, data showed. Its mindfulness exercises also did not improve physical functions such as lower-limb strength, flexibility, and mobility.

“MiYoga is a promising programme for children with CP in enhancing their sustained attention and consistency of performance on tasks while lowering impulsivity,” the authors wrote.

Further trials are necessary to validate these results. Still, “MiYoga can be considered as an additional option to standard rehabilitation to enhance attention for children with cerebral palsy,” the researchers concluded.