No child should ever have to suffer becasue they have anxiety and stress. What’s really important is knowing and understand the signs of stress as well as things that can help accomodate them to feel less stressed.
Children with autism respond to stress in the same way as anybody else. The only difference is that stress is a greater problem for students with autism because they experience severe stress far more frequently then what most people do and they are not able to deal with stress as effectively.The reason for this is they have fewer resources in dealing with stress as they may not recognize it.
Children with autism also have poor self-awareness. They may not have a concept of their bodies and also find it difficult to attend to. Some children may not recognize their feelings or sensations indicating their physical state.
When a child with autism experiences stress their abilities start to become affected:
- understanding of language decreases
- ability to express them selves decreases
- awareness to others and the cues they give is reduced
- can’t concentrate very well
- have difficulty focusing on relevant information
- sensory system becomes over stimulated
- becomes harder to use constructive problem solving
Here are some examples of situations and tips in helping a child with autism:
- Students need help in learning to pay attention to, and correct interpret the messages on their own body. This can be achieved by assisting and encouraging the student to label feelings and physical sensations. Once feelings can be labeled it helps identify the situation when the might feel these emotions. This will help in finding coping strategies. Be creative use role playing, pictures, music or scenes from movies showing emotions. Social stories may help also.
- Find out from a student’s parent if there was an occupational therapy work up. This can help the school as modifications can be made to deal with the stress.
- Most importantly it is very important to know the signs and become aware of stress. Children with autism may not reveal stress the way some students do. The cues that are given maybe very subtle. Some signs are body posture, change in tone of voice, more or less talkative, resisting eye contact, becoming teary or restless. Sometimes stress may trigger challenging or repetitive behavior. Use prompts such “You look worried. Do you need help?’. Make sure the prompting fits the situation.
- Some students may be quiet and compliant in class and become aggressive the minute they get home. This indicates a high level of stress at school but is often misinterpreted as coping at school and poor behavior at home. It is release of tension in a safe place. It is very important for teachers and parents to have open lines of communication regarding how the student is coping.
- Physical activity is a good way of letting go of stress. Biking riding, jumping on a trampoline, running, using a stress ball.
- Another issue is homework. The school day can leave some students with autism so stressed they need their evening and weekends just to relax and unwind. Children might need a clear distinction such as school is for learning and home is for relaxing. Imposing homework on a child under great stress can be more then they can bear.
I hope these help as I have found some of these to be very information and may help when I meet the IEP team. I have already wrote the teacher and the special ed teacher with this information. It definitely brings more awareness and sheds a little more light on what Dakota may or may not be experiencing.