1. Learn to recognize feelings of anxiety
One of the first steps to overcoming anxiety is to recognize that it exists. There is a book entitled I Have Feelings, Too! It is an interactive book of emotions and feelings to help children recognize how they feel. Also, there is a CD-ROM entitled Fun With Feelings that can help children identify their emotions. Finally, there are "personalized success stories," that address the topic of feelings. All these resources are available at Different Roads to Learning www.difflearn.com.
2. Provide relaxing sensory input
Children with autism respond well to relaxing sensory input. This can be provided in the form of vibrating massagers since the children normally like the sensation. Also, sensory balls of various textures can be very relaxing for children with autism. Some of the types of balls available include squishy balls, string balls, fuzzy balls, slime balls and bead balls. These balls do not normally bounce. Kids think these tactile toys are very squeezable and fun.
3. Put on relaxing music
Pay attention to what type of music the child likes. It is beneficial to have a quiet time in which the child's favorite music is on.
4. Discuss the day in advance
One of the things that increases anxiety in children with autism is changes in routine. Also, some children have limited ability to ask questions about upcoming changes in their day. It is best if parents and therapists "go over" the day in advance, using visual schedules if possible. Visual schedules provide a pictorial of how the child's day or upcoming event will be. Children find visual schedules reassuring and it provides improved communication between parents and children, which reduces anxiety. Visuals and visual schedules may be obtained at www.mayer-johnson.com.
At first it may seem hard to get into the routine of doing the things that decrease anxiety in children with autism. It may seem like just another task in an already overloaded schedule. However, by making these subtle changes in a child's daily life, children will have decreased anxiety and receive great physical and emotional benefit.