Tell a parent of a child with autism that 40 percent of children on the autism spectrum also have an anxiety disorder, and odds are you won’t be met with surprise.
Parents of children with autism are all too familiar with the signs of anxiety; the outbursts when a predictable routine unexpectedly changes, the self-soothing behaviors to cope with inner worry, the obsessive-compulsive rituals. While these anxiety symptoms are often masked by a child’s autism, they present a real challenge for children and their families. Children with comorbid anxiety and autism experience more behavioral issues and functional difficulties than children with one disorder or the other.
Researchers are still investigating the best approach for treating anxiety in children on the autism spectrum. While medications used to treat anxiety in people without autism show some evidence of helping kids on the spectrum, they also seem to worsen other behaviors, namely hyperactivity, impulsivity, and insomnia.
That’s not to say parents should rule out medication — research is still underway, and so far, results show that medication can help some children with autism and anxiety, if not all. However, it’s not all parents can do to alleviate anxiety in their child.
If you have a child with anxiety and autism, these strategies may help.
Identifying the anxiety triggers of a child with autism is difficult, especially if the child has developmental delays that affect the ability to communicate. However, many children with autism share similar triggers, including unfamiliar situations, changes to routines, social situations, and lack of sleep. Many children also have sensory triggers; while these tend to be highly individual, parents can familiarize themselves with sensory processing disorder to learn the types of sensory hypersensitivities and narrow in on their child’s specific triggers.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy has proven effective against anxiety disorders in the general population, and there’s evidence to support its use in children on the autism spectrum as well. CBT aims to alter a patient’s thought patterns to reduce negative responses to difficult situations. This gives children the tools they need to manage their emotions without outside intervention. Researchers have found that CBT is effective not only against anxiety but also anger, depression, and other emotional challenges.
A 2019 study found that over 80 percent of children with autism experienced improved anxiety symptoms after six months of treatment with cannabidiol-based oil. While the study in question used a CBD product with low amounts of THC, which isn’t currently available outside of states with medical cannabis, parents can access legal hemp-derived CBD products no matter where in the US they live. While CBD oil is the most available product, children who have issues with the taste or texture of oil may do better with CBD gummies. Parents should talk to their child’s doctor or therapist before adding CBD to their child’s treatment regimen, as well as read up on the different gummies currently available on the market.
Relaxation techniques quiet the intense physiological response triggered by anxiety. However, in order for relaxation techniques to be effective, children must practice them in safe situations. Parents can role play stressful scenarios with their children and teach them how to identify difficult thoughts and emotions and manage them through relaxation. Deep breathing is one technique used by neurotypical individuals and people with autism alike. Children with autism may also find calm from fidgeting or positive sensory experiences, such as playing with water or stroking a comfort object.
As you can see, there’s no quick fix for anxiety in children with autism. The experience of anxiety is a highly individualized one, and the coping strategies and treatments that work for one child may have no meaningful effect on another. However, by experimenting with different strategies and finding what resonates with their child, parents can turn their child’s anxiety into something predictable and manageable.
Determine Your Risk
Hurricanes bring hazards to the U.S Coastlines and Inland areas, including storm surge along the coast, inland flooding due to heavy rainfall, tornadoes, strong wind, rip currents and large waves.
Find out today what types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live, and then start preparing now for how to handle them. Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem.
Their impacts can be felt hundreds of miles inland, and significant impacts can occur without it being a major hurricane. Now is the time to prepare for a potential land-falling tropical storm or hurricane.
Develop an Evacuation Plan
Find out today if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone. Plan where you'll go and how you would get there. Leave immediately if ordered to evacuate and be sure to plan for your pets.
The first thing you need to do is find out if you live in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone or if you’re in a home that would be unsafe during a hurricane. If you are, figure out where you’d go and how you’d get there if told to evacuate. You do not need to travel hundreds of miles. Identify someone, perhaps a friend or relative who doesn’t live in a zone or unsafe home, and work it out with them to use their home as your evacuation destination. Be sure to account for your pets, as most local shelters do not permit them. Put the plan in writing for you and those you care about.
Assemble Disaster Supplies
Get your supplies before hurricane season begins. Have enough food and water for each person for at least three days. Be sure to fill you prescriptions and have medicine on hand. Radios, batteries and phone chargers on are also must haves. Gas up your vehicle and have extra cash on hand.
You’re going to need supplies not just to get through the storm but for the potentially lengthy and unpleasant aftermath. Have enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last each person in your family a minimum of three days. Electricity and water could be out for at least that long. You’ll need extra cash, a battery-powered radio and flashlights. Many of us have cell phones, and they all run on batteries. You’re going to need a portable crank or solar powered USB charger.
Get Insurance Check Up
Check in with your insurance agent well before hurricane season. Remember that flood insurance must be obtained separately. Prepare your home and vehicles according to your policy, and know where your insurance documents are located and take them with you if youevacuate.
Call your insurance company or agent and ask for an insurance check-up to make sure you have enough homeowners insurance to repair or even replace your home. Don’t forget coverage for your car or boat. Remember, standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, you’ll need a separate policy for it, and it’s available through your company, agent or the National Flood Insurance Program at floodsmart.gov. Act now as flood insurance requires a 30-day waiting period.
Strengthen Your Home
There is alot you can do around your home to help protect it from the strong wind that come with hurricanes. Well ahead of the approaching storm, trim trees on your property, shop for approved window covering, collect loose outdoor items, secure all doors on your property, and find a safe location for your vehicle.
If you plan to ride out the storm in your home, make sure it is in good repair and up to local hurricane building code specifications.
Many of these retrofits do not cost much or take as long to do as you may think. Have the proper plywood, steel or aluminum panels to board up the windows and doors. Remember, the garage door is the most vulnerable part of the home, so it must be able to withstand the winds.
Help Your Neighbor
Many people rely on the assistance of neighbors before and after hurricanes. Help your neighbors collect the supplies they'll need before the storm. Assist them with evacuation if ordered to do so or check on them after it's safe for you to head outside.
Many Americans rely on their neighbors after a disaster, but there are also many ways you can help your neighbors before a hurricane approaches. Learn about all the different actions you and your neighbors can take to prepare and recover from the hazards associated with hurricanes. Start the conversation now with these Neighbor Helping Neighbor strategies.
Complete a Written Plan
Writing down your plan will help you avoid mistakes when faced with an emergency and ensure everyone in your home is prepared for the next storm.
The time to prepare for a hurricane is before the season begins, when you have the time and are not under pressure. If you wait until a hurricane is on your doorstep, the odds are that you will be under duress and will make the wrong decisions.
Take the time now to write down your hurricane plan. Know where you will ride out the storm and get your supplies now. You don’t want to be standing in long lines when a hurricane warning is issued. Those supplies that you need will probably be sold out by the time you reach the front of the line. Being prepared, before a hurricane threatens, makes you resilient to the hurricane impacts of wind and water. It will mean the difference between your being a hurricane victim and a hurricane survivor.