With ASD Nest, New York schools might have found the ideal middle ground where neuro-typical and autistic kids can learn together.
While this is something not every parent would have to deal with, managing anxiety is an issue most parents of children with autism would have to face at some point in their lives. Anxiety in kids with autism can be exhausting and intense. It manifests itself with one or all of the following signs: mild to severe agitation or aggression, increased obsessiveness, and changes in social behavior. As parents, we need to understand what anxiety is all about for us to help our children with autism to cope with anxiety attacks.
Types Of Anxiety With Autism
Any form of anxiety can occur in someone with autism, but the most common types are specific phobia, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and social anxiety.
Specific phobia is a type of anxiety wherein a person fears a particular object, place, or situation. For instance, a child with autism may feel anxious when brought into an amusement park or to a dark theater to watch a movie; thus, avoiding these places is necessary (read more about it here: babycenter.com)
Obsessive-compulsive behavior, on the other hand, is characterized by repetitive and obsessive behavior. Children with this type of anxiety feel that something negative will happen to them if they do not do an action repeatedly.
Meanwhile, social anxiety is often present in kids with autism because of their struggles with social interactions. It can manifest in their conversations, body language, and eye contact.
What Causes Anxiety?
Unexpected changes in routine, such as changes in schedules or new social situations like attending birthday parties or weddings, may cause anxiety in children with autism.
Losing their loved ones or being separated from familiar faces and surroundings may trigger anxiety in kids with autism.
Children with autism who suffer from anxiety have an abnormal level of neurotransmitters, which means their brains have trouble transmitting information.
Parents’ Role In Managing Anxiety In Their Autistic Child
Parents whose child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may need help in coping and managing the anxiety of their child. Here are some pointers in dealing with your child’s anxiety:
- First of all, find out what makes your child anxious. Since children with autism have difficulty in communicating their feelings, you, as parents, should look for signals or triggers that make them feel anxious. It may help if you make a list of these situations so that you can give your child plenty of opportunities to practice in dealing with these unfamiliar situations.
- Teach your child to understand what anxiety does in his/her body by asking what he/she feels. For instance, you can ask your child if his/her palms are getting sweaty or if his/her heart beats faster. This way, your child will be able to inform you what he/she is experiencing during an anxiety attack.
- Use calming and relaxing strategies for your child to learn how to calm down if he/she starts to feel anxious or stressed. These strategies might include the following: counting from one to ten, taking five deep breaths, running around the house, or reading a favorite book.
- Visual techniques, such as using photographs, can help your child cope with stressful situations or environments. Children with autism are visual learners; thus, it may help to teach them what they would do in a particular place by showing them a picture of their task so that they would know in advance what you expect from them. Giving them a printed schedule of their activities for the day or week would also prepare them for what is coming next.
- Use distractions to help calm your anxious child, such as letting him/her try an activity or giving a toy that he/she enjoys. Your child may find the spy gear toys cool to play with. It’s also a fun form of imaginative style of playing.
- Rehearsing or practicing situations that are stressful for him/her will help your child visually understand them. This strategy will also help the child cope with the anxiety by preparing him/her physically.
- Essential oils, such as chamomile, lavender, and jasmine oils, are gaining popularity for their calming and relaxing ability to treat a variety of mental issues including anxiety and autism.
- Getting help from a psychologist may be your last option if your child has a severe anxiety disorder. These professionals use a range of approaches, such as cognitive behavior therapy, interventions using gradual exposure, social stories, and relaxation training, in aiding your child to relax. Sometimes, medication may be administered to help calm the child.
As parents, coping with anxiety in kids with autism is daunting. Nonetheless, you must power through for their sake.
Most of us, even as adults, have already experienced anxiety once in our lives. Truthfully, it’s pretty exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally that it can interfere with our daily activities and even our life in general. It is a different kind of a struggle because it includes excessive and constant worrying all the time.
In children, it is more frequent and can be more intense and excessive than that of adults. Children with autism also experience this as their peers without disability do. As mentioned in Bounty.com, it is often characterized by severe tantrums and separation anxiety to be specific. As parents, it is hard to see our children especially those with special needs to go on crying without fully and verbally expressing what they need and what else they want.
How Does Anxiety Manifest In Autism?
Like normal children, anxiety can hit even our children with autism. From an observer’s view, especially for first-time parents, it looks like a typical tantrum that every child, with or without special needs, goes through. More often than not, this assumption is not what it seems to be. Especially for parents of children with autism, it’s crucial that we know how anxiety manifests in our children.
- Psychological Symptoms
While we, as parents, are not the one hit by anxiety, we can still somehow feel it just by observing and looking at our children. Few of the most common symptoms in anxiety in children are the following:
- Separation Anxiety
Children with autism still want to make friends and go out with them. Even with their inability to communicate well, their desire to play and socialize with children their age is evident in their moves and acts.
- Unusual Sleeping Patterns
Difficulty in sleeping can be a sign of anxiety in children with autism. Take note of this, parents: Anxiety can take the form of phobia. It’s important to know if there’s something that’s bugging our children. They can fear even the simple things that we should not take for granted.
- Frequent Loss Of Patience
While this is a common trait among children, it is crucial that we know what is excessive and what is not. We should address this right away, or at least we should teach our children the best we can when it comes to proper socializing.
- Physical Symptoms
These symptoms are a result of the psychological symptoms we enumerated above. Such physical manifestations can be excessive thirst, frequent bathroom visits, shaking, and stomach aches. While it may be hard for our children with autism to communicate these, we as parents should do our best to teach them through hand movements about what they are feeling.
Tips On Mitigating Anxiety On Your Children
- Keep A Journal
A lot of apps can help you track your child’s behavior. Take note of all the circumstances, time, and even place where such symptoms manifest. Doing so can help you identify if there are common factors that contribute to the manifestations of anxiety that you can address right away.
- Learn About Relaxation Techniques
Make sure to have a plan B in case such symptoms of anxiety (especially the tantrums) happen. Prepare a simple activity that your child enjoys doing to calm him or her (see some suggestions here: familyhype.com). While a simple reward or a candy can help him or her relax a bit, it is not always advisable as such can spoil your child in a way that it would be hard to discipline him properly in the future.
- Consult Professional Help
Join autism support groups and find a doctor that specializes with children with autism. They have the best specific solutions and experiences that you can learn from to address the problem. With the journal you have, consult all your findings and observation to the proper doctors so that they can tailor specific solutions to your child’s needs.
As real as it can get, anxiety is still manageable. We know how hard it is to face the truth about our children with autism, and seeing that they are also undergoing anxiety already seems too much. However, with the proper care and support from professionals, it becomes easy to handle these challenges. Remember: the best advice always comes from professional help especially when it comes to our children with special needs.
Today, some parents continue to struggle with their children who have autism. In the United States, one in every 59 children is identified to have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This number might be the minority, but it is a concern for several families. To care for a child with this condition is one challenging and exhausting task. But it is possible to ease this struggle for your family. Here are seven ways to help you address autism in the family.
Give Yourself A Better Understanding Of Autism
In most cases, the best way to work out a problem or concern is through understanding. The more aware you are of autism, the better equipped you become in handling it. It helps you come up with the best decisions for your child’s development. Several websites have forums or articles that talk about autism. You can also try asking experts or friends who are in a similar situation. If you wish to help your child further, you can research for the available treatment options.
You Are Not Alone
Never feel embarrassed to reach out to others. Whether it is a distant relative or a medical professional, someone can always help. Remember that you cannot do everything alone and it is okay. You won’t be able to care for someone if you cannot even take care of yourself. Give time for breaks such as a walk in the park or watching movies. Exhausting yourself too much won’t do you and your child any good.
Get Involved With The Autism Community
There are several ASD-involved support groups and communities. If you need someone to open to, try joining them. They are the ones who share the same experiences the most. You can gain information and guidance from them. They can also offer you insights on the best services or treatments. Aside from this, they can give a sense of emotional relief.
Acceptance Is Key
Autism has significant impacts on each member of the family. Even though some of them are under constant emotional and social strain, other members provide the emotional support needed by the family. Here is an overview to give you a better grasp of the impacts:
- Parents – Shock, grief, and sadness are the most common feelings from the moment of diagnosis. They often adjust their daily routines to accommodate their child best. This challenging task usually affects most of their professional life.
- Siblings – In some interviews, embarrassment was common among siblings. It often leads to the isolation and bullying of their sibling with ASD. In other interviews, older children said otherwise. They mentioned they accept their sibling’s autism. They know that it is a part of who they are. It gives a more positive impact on their sibling as they take the initiative to play with them and introduce them to others.
- Grandparents – They are the ones who offer the most support. Grandparents become very understanding of the situation of both the parents and child. They provide the parents with empathy and the children with encouragement.
Autism does affect a family in several ways. Their initial reaction can often lead to invalidating actions such as isolation and neglect. But it was never their choice to end up like that. By accepting them, you instead give them a feeling of belonging and comfort.
Plan A Retreat
No, this is not to tell you to escape your current situation. Most people with autism are highly sensitive to their environments. Cities consist of stressful surroundings which can easily overload your senses. The noise from the cars, the lights of the buildings, and the polluted air are overwhelming. They can trigger stress and discomfort for them. Try going on a vacation outside of the city because it can offer a calm environment with little pollution.
Change Your Perspective
People often think of autism as a problem. It is certainly not the case. Autism is a disability that challenges an individual. Making interactions, speaking confidently, and nervous thoughts and behaviors are constant torments. We all need to change our perspective of this condition. We can instead serve as support and guide for them. All they need is a push to help them cope with their circumstance.
Provide Their Essential Needs
If you can provide them with their essential needs, you can bring out the best in them. You can make them feel like they are living a normal life. Your support will give them a sense of belonging and comfort. Provide them the education, shelter, food, medicine, and clothing everyone gets. Do not make them feel any different. Instead, assure them in words and actions that they are within reach like everyone else.
These are some things to help you handle your child’s autism better. Remember that even though it becomes exhausting and demanding for you, it is always more challenging for them. Do your best to support and push them forward.
As “mild” as the doctors may perceive the Asperger’s syndrome, a teenager who gets diagnosed with it may find accepting the condition as difficult as taking cancer news lightly. High-functioning or not, after all, it remains within the autism spectrum disorder. The illusion of being an average kid shatters in an instant, and he or she has to live with the fact that no amount of treatment can cure this neurological illness.
Nonetheless, Asperger’s is among those diseases that anyone would rather have than another form of autism. You may not know how to empathize with people, yet you can keep up with the lessons taught at the regular school. The fine line between sarcasm and a real joke may be blurry for you, but you are excellent at following instructions. These are things that may be impossible to accomplish for people who are on the other side of the spectrum. Thus, you are still somewhat lucky if a specialist merely diagnoses you with Asperger’s syndrome.
Considering such words do very little to assure you that “mild” autism news is not something to lose your head for, here are a few tips to keep yourself stress-free now.
Don’t Worry About Your Image At School
One aspect that teens who have to live with Asperger’s syndrome often get anxious about is what the students in the campus will think when the word gets out about the diagnosis. “Nobody will want to be my friend” or “This or that kid will become more popular than me” – these are the typical complaints that parents may hear. However, the truth is that your image in middle or high school won’t have much value years later; that’s why any good or bad outcome of divulging your condition to others should not bother you.
Try Not To Focus On Your New Limitations
In case your Asperger’s stops you from participating in an academic or athletic activity, it is practical not to feel too sad about it. There may be more things that you cannot do because of the disorder, and being a crybaby due to it won’t change your fate. Instead of grumbling regarding your new limitations, therefore, you should find your other strengths and focus on them.
Listen To Your Therapist
Since medications can not cure any form of autism, it is advisable to speak to a psychotherapist to at least be able to cope with your illness faster and more effectively. The mental health professional, after all, is aware of the techniques that may help you manage your symptoms. If you listen to the therapist’s suggestions well, living as normally as possible even with this disorder may not be unimaginable.
Accept That Not Everyone Will Understand You
Without sounding too negative, it goes without exaggeration that not every individual who learns about your Asperger’s will be sympathetic to you. Some may raise their brows; others may typecast you as a lunatic that should not hang out with anyone. Nevertheless, it will be best to turn your attention towards the people – family, friends, and teachers – who know better than to define you by your condition.
If several specialists confirm that you belong to the autism spectrum, there is honestly no way for you to get out of it. Acting up after the diagnosis won’t help; it may worsen your situation as you might choose to live with a heart full of hatred and angst at this point. Hence, it is ideal to follow the tips mentioned above to make your teenage years stress-free even with Asperger’s syndrome.