At D.C. Conference, Transcendental Meditation Meets Autism

Washington, D.C.  Can a simple, easily-learned, evidence-based meditation technique be an effective tool for reducing the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?  A distinguished panel of experts came together for a groundbreaking webinar sponsored by the David Lynch Foundation, The Joey Lowenstein Foundation and the Center for Assessment and Treatment for Autism.  The experts discussed the research, clinical applications, and uses of Transcendental Meditation for reducing stress and stress-related disorders, improving brain function, and enhancing quality of life among children and teens with ASD.

Autism Spectrum Disorders or “ASDs,” are described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a group of developmental disabilities that can cause “significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.”

Today, Autism Spectrum Disorders are growing at epidemic rates — affecting 1 in 88 individuals and 1 in 54 boys. Many people with ASDs suffer anxiety, sleep disturbances, poor self-regulation, and sensory sensitivities… all of which “significantly” impair daily functioning… and quality of life.

Rita Cosby

Founders and Members of the David Lynch Foundation, the Joey Lowenstein Foundation and the Center for Assessment and Treatment for Autism discussed the effects of a simple, evidence-based meditation technique, practiced by more than FIVE million people, popularly known as Transcendental Meditation, or TM. It has been found capable of improving these symptoms in the treatment of ASDs.

People with ASDs “frequently” struggle with transition and changes in routine, and find social interactions… stressful. Friendships tend to be challenging; individuals with ASD commonly struggle to perceive social cues, interpret the social intentions of others, recognize the impact of their “own” actions in social situations… and respond in socially conventional ways.

Reducing stress and anxiety has the potential to “significantly” improve the quality of life of people with ASDs… and their families.  However, current treatment for anxiety and stress is very limited.

Transcendental Meditation is a simple, effortless technique practiced for just 15 to 20 minutes, TWICE a day, by adults, and 10 to 12 minutes TWICE a day by adolescents.  It is practiced by sitting comfortably with your eyes CLOSED.  People of ALL ages and backgrounds (including those with ASD) are able to learn and practice TM.

During TM sessions, the individual experiences a unique state of deep rest and heightened alertness, which reduces stress… and promotes more coherent brain functioning.

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Moderator Rita Cosby with Norman Rosenthal, M.D. and David Black, M.D.
Photo: Neshan Naitchayan.

Why is THIS relevant today?

Because conventional treatment options for ASDs are “limited.” TM is has an “excellent” record of success for reducing anxiety and stress, and improving the quality of life for children AND adults with autism.

Two “leading” scientific experts, Norman Rosenthal, MD and David Black, MD addressed the impact of Transcendental Meditation on stress, anxiety and health… and its impact on autism.

Dr. Rosenthal is the world-renowned psychiatrist who first described seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and pioneered the use of light therapy, which has helped millions of people around the world.  For this, he was awarded the prestigious Anna Monika International Prize for Research.

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Jaxson Zimmerman, Roberta Lowenstein, Rita Cosby, Lorraine Cancro, M.S.W.,
Sarina Grosswald, Ed.D., and David Black, M.D. Photo: Neshan Naitchayan.

He is an expert on the medical benefits of Transcendental Meditation, the author of over 200 scholarly articles and the best-selling author of 8 popular books, including “Transcendence,” and most recently, “The Gift of Adversity.”  He is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Dr. Rosenthal stated “Transcendental meditation can reduce blood pressure, anxiety, fight or flight response, and is a legitimate treatment for hypertension. With Autism Spectrum Disorders symptoms of anxiety are diminished with the regular practice of TM. With a decrease in anxiety there is less chance of tantrums, emotional regulation is improved and leads to the individual’s ability adapt to new things – foods, people, changes in schedule, etc.”

Dr. Black is a pediatric neuropsychologist and scientist, who is a nationally-recognized expert in autism spectrum and related disorders. He has spent much of the last ten years working clinically with children, adolescents, and adults with autism spectrum disorders. He is a researcher in the Pediatrics and Developmental Neuroscience Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, NIH… where he has been investigating the factors that contribute to the best outcomes among children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

Dr. Black stated, “All medications have side effects as opposed to Transcendental Meditation which has no side effects.”

This webinar was co-hosted by the David Lynch Foundation, the Center for Autism Assessment and Treatment—and the Joey Lowenstein Foundation.

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Tomaczek Bednarek, Jaxon Zimmerman, Roberta Lowenstein, Michele Zimmerman, Rita Cosby,
Lorraine Cancro, Sarina Grosswald, Ed.D., David Black, Ph.D., Bill Stixrud, Ph.D. 
Photo: Neshan Naitchayan.

Although not formally taught, Joey could read. He could perform eighth grade math. He is witty. He can write poetry; possessing a wisdom well beyond his teenage years. His Rabbi describes Joey as ‘an old soul.’

Roberta Lowenstein is the mother of an extraordinary young man with autism, 17-year-old Joey Lowenstein. She is also the Founder and Chair of the Joey Lowenstein Foundation, a nonprofit which focuses on Athletics, Nutrition, Self-Development,   RPM(RapidPromptingMethod), and Seizure and Brain Research.

Diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, Joey — and Roberta — have endured much over the years. The most inspiring of which was Joey’s recent conquering of a 14-year virtual silence. Unable to communicate through typical speech (or so was thought), Joey had uttered few words through the age of 14.

However, this changed two years ago when Joey’s mother discovered a method of communicating called Rapid Prompting Method (RPM). RPM is an educational platform that utilizes a letter board to facilitate education and communication. Having tried dozens of therapies over the years nothing could have prepared Roberta for what was coming.

What was previously impossible became possible when Joey began using a letter board to speak. The flood gates of communication opened (and so had Roberta’s tears) releasing 14 years of ‘bottled-up’ expression, thoughts concealed, fears and dreams for the future.

Through fundraising, the Foundation will have the resources to help people who have autism, in the words of Joey, “Break the Barriers of Autism” and find their own bridge to communicating WHO they are, and WHAT they are capable of doing with their “unique” gifts.

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Many professional gathered to make this webinar a grand success. Pictured: 
Nisha Sidhu,
Michele Zimmerman, Tomaczek Bednarek, Jaxon Zimmerman, Martha Simons, Roberta Lowenstein,
Rita Cosby, Lorraine Cancro, Sarina Grosswald, Ed.D., David Black, Ph.D., Bill Stixrud, Ph.D.,
Norman Rosenthal, M.D., and Bobby Roth, D.L.F. Photo: Neshan Naitchayan.

Roberta stated that her relationship with her son, Joey, improved greatly through the regular practice of TM. This shared quiet time or “going within” has helped Joey find  inspiration. Soon after he began practicing TM he started his own blog “Earnest to Learn”. Soon after Joey told his mother that he wanted to start a business or foundation to help others like him to find their voice and maximize their potential. He does not want to be limited by his disorder and wants others to know they can “Break the Barriers of Autism” too. Clearly, Joey is a remarkable young man.

Dr. Stixrud is an eminent clinical neuro-psychologist and an expert in the assessment of children and adolescents with learning, social, and emotional disorders.  He has authored book chapters and articles on the adolescent brain, the effects of stress on learning and emotional development, and the benefits of Transcendental Meditation for students with Attention Deficit HyperactivityDisorderorADHD.

He is a member of the Adjunct Faculty at the Children’s National Medical Center, AND he is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Behavioral Sciences, and Pediatrics, at the George Washington University School of Medicine.

Dr. Stixrud stated, “The benefits of TM were dramatic among autistic individuals since their experience of the world is intense. Autistic individuals are wired for stress and anxiety. These individuals do not feel safe and often out of control. When they practice TM they find a safe “address” within themselves.”

Dr. Sarina Grosswald is an expert in cognitive learning, focusing on improving stress-related disorders. Her first-of-its-kind research on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on children with ADHD and Autism spectrum, received “worldwide” attention.   She has published and lectured extensively in the fields of medicine and education.   Her work has also been featured in:  US News and World ReportBusiness Week, Newsweek, International Herald Tribune, Barron’s, ABC News, and PBS.

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Jordan Abramson with Rita CosbyPhoto: Neshan Naitchayan.

She stated “TM is great for the developing brain and the prefrontal cortex. TM increases mental flexibility and a willingness to interact with others which leads to a reduction in stress for individual and their family. It helps the autistic individual create a wider world. Two areas of impairment for autistic individuals is their ability to sleep and ability to socialize. These areas improve greatly while practicing TM.”

In the words of Joey Lowenstein, “TM helps you find tranquility within. Stay cool and you can take the heat.”

If you are interested in learning more about Transcendental Meditation and how IT can be used to help you or a family member – or your clients – with Autism Spectrum Disorder, please write to:

AUTISM@DAVIDLYNCHFOUNDATION.ORG.

For more information on the Joey Lowenstein Foundation go to www.joeylowensteinfoundation.org.

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About Lorraine Silvetz, MSW

View all posts by Lorraine Silvetz, MSW
Lorraine Silvetz, MSW
Lorraine Silvetz is a trained Psychotherapist with a Master’s Degree of Social Work from New York University specializing in the treatment of service members, domestic violence and child trafficking survivors suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) and suicidal ideation. Lorraine formerly served as Director at iSynchrony Clinic where individualized transcranial magnetic stimulation (iTMS) was administered for the treatment of PTSD and TBI. She and her husband, Robert Silvetz, MD recently brought the innovative treatment to the northeast. Earning a film degree from NYU Tisch School of the Arts helped contribute to a creative approach to advocacy in the world of mental health.

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