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The Effect of Mindfulness App Use in Complex Needs Students

Examining the effect of a mindfulness application on social emotional development and cognitive development.

A person holding an iPhone


Research background

Previous research has separately investigated the relationship between mindfulness, sleep quality and internet use on sustained attentional ability. However, these factors are inter-related, with internet use affecting sleep and sustained attention; sleep quality, in turn, affecting mind wandering and sustained attention; and mindfulness being associated with decreased mind wandering, improved sleep quality and improved sustained attention.

Research aims

This study aimed to examine the effect of a mindfulness application on social emotional development and cognitive development.

How was the research carried out?

37 students used the ‘Headspace’ mindfulness meditation (MM) application at the start of each day for one school week, using the breathing triangle. The Boxall Profile assessment was used to measure social emotional development scores and the Headstart School Cognitive Ability Profile to measure cognitive development profiling scores, at the start and end of the week. Teachers’ attitudes towards mindfulness were also measured.


Cognitive input showed a medium-sized improvement (d =0.3); elaboration and output showed a small-medium improvement (both d’s =0.2). There was a moderate improvement in BPA scores (d =0.3). Teachers’ attitudes were similar across classes and did not appear to affect the results.

Brief mindfulness training appeared to influence the cognitive, social and emotional performance of a range students with complex educational needs and is likely to be a useful tool in schools. Teachers’ attitudes towards mindfulness did not appear to influence the intervention. Future studies could also employ an active control group and, also, measure parental influences.