Student Profile: Jenny Lee and Randye Semple | Teachers College Columbia University

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Student Profile: Jenny Lee and Randye Semple

Jenny Lee and Randye Semple are in the Clinical psychology doctoral program.

Jenny Lee and Randye Semple are in the Clinical psychology doctoral program. Randye is in her third year of the program and Jenny is in her second year.  They are teaching mindfulness meditation to children struggling to read, and finding that children develop much stronger attention and focus with the use of this meditation.  Randye has been working with mindfulness for many years and did her masters thesis on mindfulness meditation in similar work with adults.   


Mindfulness meditation is encouraging individuals to be mindful in skills in attention and moment-to-moment awareness.  Mindfulness is learning to transform stressful situations by going through them in a skillful way, in order to get beyond them.  This is accomplished by using awareness of one's breath and body to achieve skills of relaxed observing and clarity.  Mindfulness training for children integrates mindfulness practices into a psychological model of childhood anxiety.  This program also includes basic education about anxiety and some exercises from cognitive therapy that show the links between thinking and feeling and how best to look after oneself when anxiety threatens the individual.  Techniques for children include breathing exercises, body awareness and practices in all five senses.    Mindfulness is essentially attention-control training.  By teaching children self-management techniques, their self-management of attention is likely to increase.


Randye and Jenny feel that working with kids helps in a preventive way, such as getting in the door before problems occur.  Research has shown that mindfulness meditation has been effective in helping with anxiety and stress management.  Recently research has shown that it helps with prevention of depressive relapse.  Randye and Jenny are adapting existing adult programs for use with children.  The program is located at The Center for Education and Psychological Services here at TC.  They recruited participants through the reading specialist program.  They have won the Dean's grant for support of mindfulness meditation and they have won outside funding from a private funding agency.  Randye started mindfulness meditation as a pilot study two years ago, now Jenny and Randye are working with 9-12 year olds.  They are doing a randomized control trial to test the efficacy of mindfulness meditation.  The first wave of the program began in November 2002 with twenty six children.  They are collecting data in November 2004. 


This study has been an inter-disciplinary study, it's a coordinated effort between the Clinical Psychology department, Center for Educational and Psychological services, the Reading Program and also Educational Psychology.  It has been a wonderful experience for Jenny and Randye to undertake the study at TC, because of all of the resources that TC has.  The knowledge base here at TC is very vast, and has helped to make their study strong.  They will also be speaking to individuals in teaching and curriculum to understand age differences in learning.  They have utilized the resources at TC, as much as possible. 


Randye and Jenny have received a great deal of positive feedback from students and parents, though they have yet to analyze the results of the study.   All of the participants are inner-city children. They say that these children have been a great deal of inspiration; the fact that they have a ninety percent attention rate has been extremely amazing.  It may be a result of providing a corrective emotional experience for the participants, which they have not encountered before.  The participants have become very cohesive, and share many experiences with one another. 


Jenny and Randye met through Lisa Miller and Lisa has been a mentor and has provided them with unconditional emotional support.

Published Monday, Apr. 14, 2003