WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or worry about what’s to come. However, if your child’s feelings of anxiety are extreme, persistent, and are interfering with their life, they may have an anxiety disorder. Children with autism are at greater risk of developing anxiety. Due to deficits in social and communication skills, they may experience greater difficulty within common situations and daily routines and interactions. This, in turn, may cause feelings of anxiety. Some anxious behaviours might include difficulty sleeping, compulsive behaviour, negative self-talk, walking/rocking back and forth, biting nails or clothing, and voiced concerns surrounding change.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ADDRESS ANXIETY?
There may be many things that make a child with autism feel anxious, such as needing to communicate their needs and wants to others, not being able to predict what comes next in daily routines and events, not being able to understand social interactions, or trouble handling information their senses take in (e.g., sounds, smells, touch, sights, taste). This anxiety may get in the way of them completing everyday tasks.
Knowing different ways to support your child in these circumstances can help reduce your child’s anxiety. It can help by reducing confusion and unpredictability and increasing their sense of calm. It can also reduce some challenging behaviours your child may be engaging in and therefore reduce caregiver stress.