Teaching Children with Autism: Technology for Anxiety Reduction
The basic NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) question is, “How do you do that?” – since NLP is all about modeling excellence. And if someone is anxious, I would want to know how they go about the process of making themselves anxious. However, you cannot be both anxious and relaxed at the same time, so one of the ways of combating anxiety is to teach relaxation. To teach relaxation, you want to start with deciding what you will use as an (observable) indicator of anxiety. My doctoral thesis was about anxiety, and I chose some measure of physiological arousal (perhaps muscle tension or galvanic skin response – I no longer remember which one); however, there is quite a wide latitude as to what you may chose as your indicator of anxiety. Then, you need to teach relaxation, reinforcing each miniscule movement (of your indicator) in the right direction, e.g., less muscle tension or greater skin resistance. Interestingly, that is not enough. To get rid of anxiety, you need to teach the client to be relaxed in the presence of whatever triggers the anxiety response in the first place. I’ll come back to that. For now, I want to introduce you to the technological approach to anxiety reduction.
One interesting physiological variable which can be measured and trained is heart rate variability. It turns out that both too much and too little variability is unhealthy, and The Institute of HeartMath (www.HeartMath.org) has been producing electronic equipment to facilitate achievement of an optimal heart rate variability level. For some years, I have had their emWave equipment, but have not had an opportunity to use it. Recently, however, they have produced a heart rate sensor for the iPhone/iPad, with accompanying free app, called InnerBalance, which is supposed to do the same thing. If I can find time to use it, which should be easier since it is so portable, I’ll let you know what I think of it.