Managing your feelings is no easy task, especially during high stress times. For children on the autism spectrum, identifying emotions and dealing with anxiety can be exceptionally difficult. It’s important to know how to best support your child as they navigate their own emotional intelligence by deciphering their feelings and dealing with the anxiety and stress of daily life.
In this post we’ll talk about emotions and anxiety in children on the spectrum and what factors may contribute to their stress. When thinking about the relation between autism and emotions it’s important to understand the way children on the spectrum might handle certain stressors and stimuli.
For many children with autism, experiencing sensory overload can be a common occurrence. This can lead to intense stress that triggers a meltdown or tantrum. Sensory overload can be a big source of anxiety for children on the spectrum, especially as they learn what triggers them and how best to handle being in those situations.
To help your child deal with their emotions and anxiety, they must first practice identifying their emotions. When your child has a meltdown or tantrum, try getting them to label what it is they felt and why they felt it. Once they’ve identified that emotion and what reaction it elicits, you can start working on strategies to tackle them.
Despite the stereotype that children on the autism spectrum are insensitive or unattached, they feel just as deeply as their neurotypical peers, if not more. Keeping this wide range of emotions in mind, try building strategies with your child on how best to seek comfort when they feel a negative emotion or anxiety throughout their day. At times, it can be as simple as taking a few moments alone in a quiet and safe space. Other times having a familiar object nearby might do the trick, or simply expressing to an adult or teacher what they’re feeling. This may not come easy to most children, and they may not necessarily know how to express what they feel. Try using visual cues if necessary and give your child plenty of time to work through this process.
Dealing with Anxiety
There can be numerous sources of anxiety for children. One of the most common is separation anxiety which occurs when a child is separated from a trusted parent or caregiver. As discussed before, certain sensory stimulation can also cause discomfort and anxiety. Children on the spectrum can encounter these sources of stress on the daily, so managing that anxiety is paramount to helping them succeed.
If your child is feeling anxious, they may display several physiological symptoms like increased heart rate, gastrointestinal issues, muscle tension and repetitive or self-destructive behaviors. Some of the strategies for dealing with this anxiety may include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or other professional intervention like medication.
- Practicing confronting anxiety-inducing situations and environments with and without supervision.
- Scheduling quiet and low sensory stimulation time into your child’s daily routine.
- Practicing self-soothing techniques like counting to ten, deep breaths, removing themselves from the situation and more.
It’s most important to keep in mind that your child’s anxiety may be multifaceted and as such, your approach to tackling it should be as well. Do your best to communicate with your child when they have negative reactions to emotions and display signs of anxiety.For more information and autism-related news, be sure to keep up with us on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and feel free to reach out via our contact page to learn more about our services.