Top tips for reducing anxiety in autistic children
1st – 7th April marks ‘World Autism Awareness Week’, an event which aims to raise awareness of the condition which is becoming more widely diagnosed. LVS Hassocks is a specialist school which aims to support children with autism, helping them to thrive in the unique, environment.
Sarah Sherwood, Director of SEN at LVS Hassocks and LVS Oxford, is regularly asked by parents and guardians for ways to support children who not only struggle with their diagnosed condition but with severe anxiety as a result. After working with learners on the autistic spectrum for over 20 years, she regularly works to develop tips and guidance to support parents and guardians including these ‘5 tips for reducing anxiety in autistic children’:
- When an individual with autism is anxious, allow extra processing time when talking to them. As their anxiety levels rise their receptive language levels decrease. Better still, write down what you want to say or use graphics, depending on the individual’s level of understanding.
- Provide an alternative method for the individual to communicate – often when someone with autism experiences heightened anxiety their ability to communicate is greatly reduced so they may need writing tools, graphics, or assisted communication tools.
- Allow the individual to spend some time on their favoured activity – this is best shown on a schedule or timetable so that the person can see when they can access the activity and how long for.
- Try not to use ambiguous language such as maybe, perhaps or later – be specific – you can do X after you have finished Y. E.g at 3pm we will go swimming.
- Support the individual to find a relaxation strategy that works for them – listening to music, deep breathing or going for a walk/run – and provide them with a graphic if needed so that they can hand this over when they need to.
Sarah says, ‘Events like World Autism week, support massively in raising awareness and help to give us a platform to deliver our message of expertise on the subject. We’ve seen a rise in those seeking advice around anxiety for those with autism, which is common in children with the diagnosis. Our specialist work in the area means we’re able to quickly call on the expertise within the organisation to support and educate not only students but parents and guardians too.’
LVS Hassocks celebrate their 10 year anniversary in 2019 and will be hosting a day of talks and celebrations on the 8th April to shed more light on coping with anxiety as well as expert talks around ‘Autism and the criminal justice system’ and ‘Autism and adolescence’.
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