Autism Spectrum Disorder & Stress

August 8, 2018

How to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder de-stress

Dr Maite Ferrin, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health, was featured in Autism Eye magazine in an article about helping children with ASD de-stress.

It’s very common for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to suffer with anxiety as they can be sensitive to their environments and can struggle with many different aspects of their lives, on a daily basis.

Dr Ferrin comments, “There are two factors which can make anxiety worse in adolescence. Hormones play a major role, as the brain is being ‘re-wired’ at this time. The other factor is the environment. Young people have to face greater challenges during the teenage years – there’s pressure to perform at school and more responsibility.”

Dr Ferrin points out that it is during the adolescent years when ASD children discover that they are different to other children, yet they want to be the same as others. This can be a very unsettling and stressful period for children.

Watching a child or adolescent struggling with anxiety can be very stressful and upsetting for families to witness and they can often feel helpless.

Dr Ferrin shares her tips for helping children deal with anxiety in their adolescent years:

Understand the triggers

By identifying the key sources of your child’s anxiety you will be better able to help control the triggers. Actively make changes to reduce and monitor the key stressors

Have realistic expectations

Be rational about the capabilities of your child; don’t overload them with additional pressures or expectations that will overwhelm them

Manage your own stress

Whilst daily life can be very difficult and stressful at times, try to remain calm as anxiety can easily rub off onto children

Be supportive

Talk openly with your child in order to help them to develop a set their own set of coping mechanisms

Don’t over-protect

It’s important that your child finds their own way in solving problems and develops their own level of independence. Try to strike a balance of supporting without controlling or interfering

Prepare effective coping mechanisms to help control the anxiety

Deep breathing, visualisation, muscle flexing and relaxing and self-talk can be very effective mechanisms

Healthy lifestyle

Good nutrition and a regular exercise regime are very important for children with ASD, helping to reduce the damaging effects that stress can have on the body