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 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 a 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.
Jeffrey Wood, Ph.D. says, “If your child suffers from anxiety, he may experience strong internal sensations of tension. This can include a racing heart, muscular tensions, sweating, and stomachache. Intense anxiety can result in repetitive behaviors that appear to serve no function, such as shredding paper or clothing.”
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 ones 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.
Christopher Lynch, Ph.D. backs this information, saying, “Challenging behavior is rarely intentional and usually a sign that a person is overwhelmed. Also be sure to look out for physical signs of distress such as trembling, sweating, rapid breathing, pounding heart, etc.”
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 in 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.
Kathleen Smith, LPC encourages parents to do so. She wrote, “Disability or autism organizations or your local school or hospital can also help connect you to support groups for caregivers of children with autism. Support groups can help you feel heard but also connect you to resources and information that can reduce the stress of parenting.”
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.