Children with autism can feel anxious, just like children who are developing more typically can, but those with autism may need extra help in calming down. When a child with autism experiences anxiety, the experience can be quite intense, and can unexpectedly take place during routine activities, including riding in the car or simply leaving the house, when interacting with others and more.
According to StagesLearning.com, studies have shown that anywhere from 11 percent to 84 percent of people with autism are also dealing with an anxiety disorder. This is a broad range, but it’s reasonable to assume that people with autism, overall, deal with more anxiety than the population, overall.
Calming strategies for children with autism start with trying to identify what has triggered the anxiety. With that knowledge, you’ll be more able to help the child deal with the situation more effectively.
It is known that children with autism and anxiety can struggle with transitions, such as when they leave to go to school or vice versa. This can be especially true if a child strongly prefers one location over the other. Many of these children transition more effectively when provided with visual schedules that include pictures of what will be happening at what time. Knowing what to expect can help the transition to occur more smoothly.
StagesLearning.com also offers a helpful worksheet on how to teach a child with autism how to meditate. You do need to provide a small amount of information about yourself to receive this document.
LAParent.com also provides calming strategies for children with autism. One technique focuses on teaching the anxious child what the experience of calmness feels like. In other words, to talk about calmness when the child is relaxed, so he or she can relate to the experience and know what you mean about reaching a state of calm.
At the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment, therapists use the acronym of KICK to help children on the autism spectrum to learn to manage anxiety:
- K: Knowing how I’m feeling
- I: Icky or irritating thoughts
- C: Calm thoughts
- K: Keep practicing these first three steps
The first step helps children to recognize their emotions and the second one helps them to recognize their negative thoughts; the third, their calm thoughts. Then, the goal of step four is for the children to continue to practice these techniques in increasingly difficult situations.
LAParent.com also discusses how music therapy can help in unique ways, with neurologic music therapist Melissa St. John recommending “quiet classical music, while helping engage their body with gentle rhythmic rocking or swaying.” Another music-related technique is “toning,” where words of a song are replaced with humming along or using just a vowel sound.
If You Have a Child with Autism and Anxiety
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