Is Anxiety Affecting Your Child On The Autism Spectrum?
by Ashley Lengyel
On 08 April, 2022
Anxiety is more common than we realize. Most of us get anxious often in our lives owing to certain reasons and circumstances. It is essential for our wellbeing that we acknowledge and take pro – active steps in alleviating the anxiety by addressing the underlying causes. Children on the Autism spectrum need the help of their caregivers / family and well wishers to reduce their anxiety with kind words and actions. They too have the same worries and fears as others of their age. However, they worry or get stressed with things that may not bother a neurotypical child. These can include:
Disruptions to their daily routine.
Unfamiliar social situations.
Changes and new sensations in their body.
Situations that require them to know how others are feeling or thinking.
Their inner thoughts and feelings that they may not be able to express / process.
If your child is anxious and is unable to express verbally, here are some signs to look out for:
Meltdowns and emotional outbursts.
Withdraw from family or even social situations.
Stim by rocking, spinning, or flapping hands.
Self harm in the form of head-banging, scratching the skin, or hand-biting.
Rely more on comforting rituals / acts
Ways to help your child reduce anxiety:
Be gentle with your child. You can begin with lowering the demands of the child. Children with ASD have lots happening to / for them in the form of school (virtual or physical), therapy, homework, and so on. Filling up their entire day and not allowing for ample “me time” can result in an increase in anxiety / stress. Scheduling free time between activities is a good way to prevent anxiety from building up.
The self-stimming behaviors exhibited by a child are their way to deal with stress / anxiety. Trying to get them to stop doing the same and indulging in more “ gainful “ activities may prove to be counter – productive. This can lead to an increase in their anxiety, agitation and can also lead to aggression.
Be an attentive listener to the child (verbal and non – verbal) and get others around you to do the same. Even if they wish to talk on a particular topic / incident repeatedly, allow them the right to do so. This allows them to self – regulate. Doing this helps to create trust and an ambiance of predictability for them
Practice self soothing strategies with the child. Make activities like meditation, deep breathing, counting from 1 to 10, etc a part of daily routine. These are great coping mechanisms that all of us can benefit from in our lives.
Deep touch pressure is known to have a positive influence on minimizing anxiety. This is achieved via weighted garments / objects like blankets.