Here are three practical, simple solutions caregivers can use to help reduce anxiety and deal better every day with a child who has anxiety from autism.
Autism spectrum disorders and anxiety go hand-and-hand like sneezing and a cold.
We all feel anxiety from time to time; it exists to keep us safe. The fight or flight response is triggered when we feel threatened or in danger. This response has been essential to keep the human race in existence. When it invades a person’s life too much, it is crippling. The fight or flight response is triggered frequently or even continuously in very bad cases. The person feels threatened and endangered, sometimes for much of his day if not treated.
Anxiety can be presented as a nervous feeling in the stomach, sweating, heart palpitations, feelings of dread, feeling like you are having a heart attack or are going to die. It can just be a nagging feeling, and for children on the spectrum they usually do not have the vocabulary to describe any of these feelings, so they tell us with their behavior. They will be irritable, non-compliant, aggressive or withdrawn.
Water Therapy Curbs Anxiety in Autism
Negative ions are good for the body, despite the word “negative.” Water is charged with negative ions, as is fresh air. The beach and mountains are recommended places to live for people who have chronic medical issues, because of the abundance of negative ions. Think about the last time you were stressed and then went to the beach. Chances are, once there, you felt significantly better.
Our environment is also charged with positive ions, which do not apply positive benefits to our bodies. Positive ions come from free radicals; they exist in radio waves, smoke, radiation, and chemicals. Free radicals damage cells, they bypass normal metabolism in cells, and cause aging. They interfere with our cognitive abilities, and we typically combat them by reducing our exposure and eating antioxidants.
Giving a child with an autism spectrum disorder longer and more frequent baths or showers can help reset the system. Water activities, water parks, swimming, and even just playing in the sink a bit are all ways to use water therapy. Indoor pools and water parks offer help all year round, and many have season passes.
Aromatherapy and Lavender: the Power of Scent to Soothe Anxiety
Lavender’s many uses dates all the way back to ancient times, the Egyptians used it in burial, the Greeks used it for its enjoyable scents, and the Romans discovered its usefulness as an antiseptic and to ward off insects. Over centuries we have discovered the calming affects felt from simply smelling lavender.
Using sachets of lavender, lavender sticks, incense, wickless candles, and even a scented nightlight in the child’s room that releases the lavender are all helpful tools to lower stress. Body products available such as moisturizers, soap, bubble baths and oils are infused with lavender. Lavender should only be avoided if the person has an allergy to many plants.
Lower Your Expectations With Your Autistic Child
Children with autism can take longer to transition from one activity to another. Special needs children with anxiety issues will be subject to apprehension rising in them. Just be patient, let it take a bit longer. You have to pick your battles in autism. This is one that teaches the teachers to be more patient. Nothing in life is about getting what-we-want when-we-want-it; this applies to every one of us, not just the children we are teaching.
Have expectations, but do not set them so high that you will be disappointed and therefore fill your child with more anxiety. Children with autism still need bedtimes, chores, and homework, but your expectations of when these things happen needs to be flexible. They will learn what being patient means and will eventually apply it to their lives.
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Negative Ion Research. “Native Ions for the Brain” (February 16, 2012).
Journal of Applied Psychology. “Effects of Negative Ions on Cognitive Performance.” Feb 1987 v72 n1 p131 (7).