, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 68–75 | Cite as

Effects of Samatha Meditation on Active Academic Engagement and Math Performance of Students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Nirbhay N. SinghEmail author
  • Giulio E. Lancioni
  • Bryan T. Karazsia
  • Joshua C. Felver
  • Rachel E. Myers
  • Kristen Nugent


Students with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often do not actively engage in academic instruction because they have difficulty in attending to task demands in the classroom. Without adequate intervention, this may result in poor academic outcomes for these students. In a multiple baseline design study, we taught four 5th-grade students Samatha meditation and assessed active engagement in math instruction and the percentage of math problems correctly solved during baseline, meditation training, and meditation practice phases. Results showed the students had varying but low percentages of intervals of active engagement in math instruction during baseline, but evidenced statistically significant increases from baseline to the meditation practice phase. Similarly, their low but varying percentages of math problems solved correctly during baseline showed statistically significant increases from baseline to the meditation practice phase. These results suggest that Samatha meditation may enhance cognitive processes in students with ADHD at a level to benefit them academically.


Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder Samatha meditation Active academic engagement Math Executive function Students Schools Mindfulness 


Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Barlow, D. H., Nock, M., & Hersen, M. (2009). Single-case experimental designs (3rd ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  3. Bloom, B., Jones, L. I., & Freeman, G. (2013). Summary health statistics for U.S. children: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Statistics, 10(258).Google Scholar
  4. Bogels, S., Hoogstad, B., Van Dun, L., de Schutter, S., & Restifo, K. (2008). Mindfulness training for adolescents with externalizing disorders and their parents. Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36, 193–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Buksbazen, J. D. (2002). Zen meditation in plain English. Boston: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  6. Burke, C. A. (2009). Mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents: a preliminary review of current research in an emergent field. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 133–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carboni, J. A., Roach, A. T., & Fredrick, L. D. (2013). Impact of mindfulness training on the behavior of elementary students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Research in Human Development, 10, 234–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Czamara, D., Tiesler, C. M., Kohlbock, G., Berdel, D., Hoffmann, B., Bauer, C., et al. (2013). Children with ADHD symptoms have a higher risk for reading, spelling and math difficulties in the GINIplus and LISAplus cohort studies. PLoS ONE, 8, 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. DuPaul, G. J., & Stoner, G. (2003). ADHD in the schools: assessment and intervention strategies (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  10. DuPaul, G. J., Power, T. J., Anastopoulos, A., & Reid, R. (1998). ADHD rating scale-IV: checklists, norms, and clinical interpretation. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  11. Felver, J. C., Doerner, E., Jones, J., Kaye, N. C., & Merrell, K. W. (2013). Mindfulness in school psychology: applications for intervention and professional practice. Psychology in the Schools, 50, 531–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Felver, J. C., Celis-DeHoyos, C., Tezanos, K., & Singh, N. N. (2015a). A systematic review of mindfulness-based interventions for youth in school settings. Mindfulness. Advance on line publication.Google Scholar
  13. Felver, J. C., Tipsord, J. M., Morris, M. J., Racer, K. H., & Dishion, T. J. (2015b). The effects of mindfulness-based intervention on children’s attention regulation. Journal of Attention Disorders. Advance on line publication. doi: 1087054714548032.
  14. Flay, B. R., Biglan, A., Boruch, R. F., Castro, F. G. L., Gottfredson, D., Kellam, S., et al. (2005). Standards of evidence: criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6, 151–175.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Frazier, T. W., Youngstrom, E. A., Glutting, J. J., & Watkins, M. W. (2007). ADHD and achievement: meta-analysis of the child, adolescent, and adult literatures and a concomitant study with college students. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40, 49–65.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74, 59–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Friemoth, J. (2005). What is the most effective treatment for ADHD in children. The Journal of Family Practice, 54, 166–168.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Greenberg, M. T., & Harris, A. R. (2012). Nurturing mindfulness in children and youth: current state of research. Child Development Perspectives, 6, 161–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Greenwood, C. R., Horton, B. T., & Utley, C. A. (2002). Academic engagement: current perspectives on research and practice. School Psychology Review, 31, 328–349.Google Scholar
  20. Harris, K. R., Friedlander, B. D., Saddler, B., Frizzelle, R., & Graham, S. (2005). Self-monitoring of attention versus self-monitoring of academic performance: effects among students with ADHD in the general education classroom. The Journal of Special Education, 39, 145–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Haydicky, J., Shecter, C., Wiener, J., & Ducharme, J. M. (2015). Evaluation of MBCT for adolescents with ADHD and their parents: impact on individual and family functioning. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24, 76–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kamphaus, R. W., & Frick, P. J. (1996). Clinical assessment of children and adolescent personality and behavior. Needham Heights: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  23. Larson, K., Russ, S. A., Kahn, R. S., & Halfon, N. (2011). Patterns of comorbidity, functioning, and service use for US children with ADHD, 2007. Pediatrics, 127, 462–470.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. McDonald, K. (2005). How to meditate: a practical guide. Boston: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  25. Mind and Life Education Research Network. (2012). Contemplative practices and mental training: prospects for American education. Child Development Perspectives, 6, 146–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Myers, R. E. (2010). Promoting healthy behaviors: how do we get the message across? International Journal of Nursing Studies, 47, 500–512.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Parker, R. I., & Vannest, K. (2009). An improved effect size for single-case research: nonoverlap of all pairs. Behavior Therapy, 40, 357–367.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Parker, R. I., Hagan-Burke, S., & Vannest, K. (2007). Percentage of all non-overlapping data (PAND): an alternative to PND. Journal of Special Education, 40, 194–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pelham, W. J., & Murphy, H. A. (1986). Attention deficit and conduct disorders. In M. Hersen (Ed.), Pharmacological and behavioral treatment: an integrative approach (pp. 108–148). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  30. Polanczyk, G., de Lima, M. S., Horta, B. L., Biederman, J., & Rohde, L. A. (2007). The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 164, 942–948.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Richards, S. B., Taylor, R. L., & Ramasamy, R. (2013). Single subject research: applications in educational and clinical settings. Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  32. Saltzman, A., & Goldin, P. (2008). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for school-age children. In L. A. Greco & S. C. Hayes (Eds.), Acceptance and mindfulness treatments for children and adolescents: a practitioner’s guide (pp. 139–162). Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.Google Scholar
  33. Singh, I. (2008). Beyond polemics: science and ethics of ADHD. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9, 957–964.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Wahler, R. G., Winton, A. S. W., & Singh, J. (2008). Mindfulness approaches in cognitive behavior therapy. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36, 659–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Singh, N. N., Singh, A. N., Lancioni, G. E., Singh, J., Winton, A. S. W., & Adkins, A. D. (2010). Mindfulness training for parents and their children with ADHD increases the children’s compliance. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 157–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Smalley, S. L., Loo, S. K., Hale, T., Shrestha, A., McGough, J., Flook, L., & Reise, S. (2009). Mindfulness and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 1087–1098.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Swanson, J., McBurnett, K., Wigal, T., Pfiffner, L., Lerner, M., Williams, L., et al. (1993). Effects of stimulant medication on children with attention deficit disorder: a “review of reviews”. Exceptional Children, 60, 154–162.Google Scholar
  38. Trout, A. L., Lienemann, T. O., Reid, R., & Epstein, M. H. (2007). A review of non-medication interventions to improve the academic performance of children and youth with ADHD. Remedial and Special Education, 28, 207–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Van der Oord, S., Bogels, S. M., & Peijnenburg, D. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and mindful parenting for their parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 139–147.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Van der Weijer-Bergsma, E., Formsma, A. R., de Bruin, E. I., & Bogels, S. M. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training on behavioral problems and attentional functioning in adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 775–787.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Zoogman, S., Goldberg, S. B., Hoyt, W. T., & Miller, L. (2014). Mindfulness interventions with youth: A meta-analysis. Mindfulness. Advance on line publication.Google Scholar
  42. Zylowska, L., Ackermann, D. L., Yang, M. H., Futrell, J. L., Horton, N. L., Hale, S., Pataki, C., & Smalley, S. (2008). Mindfulness meditation training in adults and adolescents with ADHD: a feasibility study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11, 737–746.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nirbhay N. Singh
    • 1
    Email author
  • Giulio E. Lancioni
    • 2
  • Bryan T. Karazsia
    • 3
  • Joshua C. Felver
    • 4
  • Rachel E. Myers
    • 5
  • Kristen Nugent
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior, Medical College of GeorgiaGeorgia Regents UniversityAugustaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Neuroscience and Sense OrgansUniversity of BariBariItaly
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyThe College of WoosterWoosterUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorAlpert Medical School of Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  5. 5.WellStar School of NursingKennesaw State UniversityKennesawUSA
  6. 6.Longwood UniversityFarmvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations