Autism & Anxiety: Helping Your Child Become More Social
By Michelle Ibarra | April 5, 2019
Autism and anxiety are often linked together. Up to 90% of autistic children suffer from anxiety, and it is a condition that affects deeply their personal relationships as well as social interactions.
Anxiety Triggers In Autism
Children on the spectrum have a hard time managing anxiety and stress, and there are many situations that can “trigger” feelings of agitation, and unease. The following conditions/situations are regular sources of stress for ASD children:
- New settings/unknown spaces
- Social Situations
- Social communications
- Noisy, loud situations
- Crowded places
- Unexpected changes
- Being asked questions
- Feeling unprepared
- Getting strong reactions from people
Autism And Social Anxiety
As you can identify, most of the anxiety triggers belong in the category of social anxiety promoters. Autistic children can find it particularly difficult to interact in social events due to a number of challenges that come with the spectrum characteristics, such as:
- Sensory issues
- Speech impairments
- Obsessive behaviors
According to recent studies of the The University of Amsterdam researchers found that about 40% of children with ASD had at least one comorbid diagnosed anxiety disorder, with the following prevalence rate:
• Specific Phobia: 30%
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: 17%
• Social Anxiety Disorder/Agoraphobia: 17%
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 15%
• Separation Anxiety Disorder: 9 %
• Panic Disorder: 2%
Coping Strategies To Deal With Social Anxiety
Parents of children on the spectrum play a crucial role in the life of the children. They not only help with the regular raising/educating chores, but they must embrace the coach/therapist/psychologist role as well. The following recommendations can help coping with social anxiety generation, as well as stress management in ASD children:
- Encourage And Reward: Motivating our children is key to promoting their good behavior. Encourage them and reward their good behavior with verbal appreciations and watch them repeat the conduct. Visit our blog post Reward Good Behavior, Ignore Bad! and find out all about it.
- Ignore Excessive Anxiety Conducts: Along with our prior recommendation, ignoring anxiety excessive conducts is key to displaying approval for the behaviors that we want to see repeated in our child’s conduct. By this, we are referring to learning to identify the difference between anxiety meltdowns and attention seeking behaviors (tantrums). To find out more about it visit our blog post Eliminating Attention Seeking Behaviors in Autism.
- Develop A Plan: If you are planning on visiting a specific place that might be challenging for your child, we highly encourage you to communicate it with him/her. Show him/her pictures of family members(if needed) or of the place you are about to visit. Take with you some nice earplugs, and even rehearse (if possible) the activities that the situation might require.
- Organize Relaxed Social Interactions: Creating a safe place for your child to interact with other children is crucial for their relaxation in future social settings. Activities such as watching movies or a favorite show ensure that they will get involved with other children in a setting that does not require to speak that much. Such activities will enable them to interact with other children in a relaxed setting.
- Have An Exit: If your child gets overwhelmed or suffers from a sensory meltdown it is important to have a plan. If you start noticing that he/she gets stressed out, taking him/her out of that environment can be good to take a breath. Go for a short walk, take them to the parking spot or do anything that can be suitable to distract them and make them feel better.
Social gatherings and events can be extremely challenging for a child on the spectrum, however with a little patience and our tips he/she will be enjoying the company of other children in social gatherings in no time. Remember, it takes patience, but your child will get there!
At WSCC, we offer support for autistic families and their children with Stem Cell Therapy treatments that can transform autistic conditions by healing the gut, decreasing inflammation and improving brain function. We also created an autistic community on Facebook that is destined to offer support and companionship for ASD parents and their families on their journey.
Remember, you are not alone!
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