Mindful Movement Intervention in an Urban Public School Setting is Associated with Improvements in Social-Emotional, Behavioral, Motor and Cognitive Control

Beatrice Ojuri, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, United States
Jenny Fotang, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, United States
Alyssa DeRonda, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, United States
Kerianne Brown, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, United States
Martha James, Morgan State University, Baltimore, United States
Trinisa Brown, City Neighbors Charter School, Baltimore, United States
Brigette Cottman, City Neighbors Charter School, Baltimore, United States
Keri Rosch, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, United States
Stewart Mostofsky, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, United States
Laura Rice, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, United States


There is supportive evidence of mindful movement-based practices offering benefits for neurodevelopment and self-regulation, particularly for children in urban environments. However, this evidence has principally stemmed from subjective measures of behavioral changes, leaving the underlying mechanism under-investigated. The present study served as a follow-up to Rice et al. 2022 to replicate and extend evidence of the efficacy of an in-school mindful movement intervention (MMI) in improvement of behavioral, cognitive, and motor control as well as social-emotional control for youth in an urban public school.  

Participants and Methods:

2nd and 3rd grade students (n=35) at a public charter school located in Baltimore, MD, USA completed an in-school group-based MMI twice per week for 8 months. The MMI included lessons involving a modified Tai Chi sequence, yoga and biomechanical warm-ups, imaginative play, and reflection. Subjective (questionnaire) and objective (performance-based) measures were collected pre- and post-MMI including: (1) Parent ratings of social-emotional (Social-Emotional Assets and Resilience Scales (SEARS)), ADHD-related traits (Strengths and Weaknesses of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms and Normal Behavior Scale (SWAN)) as well as ADHD symptoms (DuPaul) and (2) Objective measures of cognitive (Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) Trails Making Test) and motor (Physical and Neurological Examination of Subtle Signs (PANESS)) control.


Participants displayed improvements across all four measures. Effect sizes are reported in terms of partial eta-squared, whereby small effects = 0.01, medium = 0.06, and large = 0.14. Following MMI, we saw patterns of improvement in subjective measures of social-emotional control on the SEARS (self-regulation/responsibility (p= .155, ηp2= 0.30) and empathy (p= .143, ηp2= 0.38) and ADHD-related traits on the SWAN, including slowed cognitive tempo (p=.036, ηp2= 0.44), and marginal effects for inattentive (p= .086, ηp2= 0.38),  hyperactive (p= .123, ηp2 = 0.33), and oppositional/disruptive behaviors (p= .100, ηp2 = 0.32). In contrast, there were no changes in the ADHD symptom measure (DuPaul: p<.801, ηp2 < 0.06).  Additionally, there were significant improvements in objective measures of cognitive control on the D-KEFS Trails Making Test (number-letter switching, p=.04, ηp2= 0.50) and motor control on the PANESS (timed tongue overflow, p=.01, ηp2= 0.47 and dysrhythmia, p=.006, ηp2= 0.58).


Consistent with previous findings (Rice et al. 2022), MMI was associated with improvement in measures of behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and motor control. This follow-up investigation extends previous findings as students also showed improvement in social-emotional control. This study supplies further evidence of the efficacy and feasibility of an in-school MMI in an urban environment. It also demonstrates the utility of the SWAN, assessing positive and negative aspects of ADHD traits, over traditional ADHD symptom measures, focused on negative aspects only, in community samples. 

Category: Cognitive Intervention/Rehabilitation

Keyword 1: cognitive control
Keyword 2: motor function
Keyword 3: treatment outcome