Reducing Anxiety and Managing Anxiety

Unfortunately, we can never get rid of or remove everything that causes anxiety. Anxiety is a natural part of life and something that everyone experiences at some stage. However, there are a few strategies that may help teenagers with autism understand and manage their own anxiety.

  • Find out what ‘triggers’ or causes the teenager with autism anxiety
    • This can be done through observation, conversation and/ or using visuals
  • Some of the common triggers for anxiety include:
    • Changes in routine or environment (Link to transitions section)
    • Unfamiliar social situations
    • Sensory sensitivities – Anxiety escalates in sensory-rich environments e.g. a noisy supermarket, playground, classroom; or as a result of exposure to disliked sensory stimuli such as a child crying, light touch, smells. (Link to Sensory Resource)
    • Fear of a particular situation, activity or object – for example, sleeping in their own bed, going to the toilet, balloons, spiders or vacuum cleaners etc.
  • Once the ‘triggers’ have been identified, work with the teenager to develop individualised appropriate strategies for dealing with these situations
  • Give the teenager lots of opportunities to practise dealing with these things and situations in a safe environment
  • It helps if other people in contact with the teenager with autism are aware of the ‘triggers’ and agreed strategies for handling these situations
  • Help the teenager recognise anxious feelings

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This image is from a book, Stallard, P. (2002) Think Good Feel Good: A Cognitive Behaviour Workbook for Children. Wiley-Blackwell.

The teenager should practise these strategies when calm.

Some teenagers find it helpful to be warned about a change or an event a day in advance (technology can be helpful e.g. texting on a smart phone or emailing teenager about change). Some like to know a week in advance. But for some, too much warning can mean they worry until the event happens.

A psychologist, cognitive behavioural therapist or mental health occupational therapist might be able to help if your child is very anxious. You can ask your GP for advice and to recommend a psychologist or therapist.