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Anxiety is very common in autism. A meta-analysis showed that almost 40% of kids with autism have at least one comorbid anxiety disorder. This article will discuss symptoms, calming strategies, medical and non-medical reasons for anxiety, and supplements and medications that can help alleviate it. We hope you find it helpful. (source)
Most children/teens/adults on the autism spectrum have high anxiety. Our autistic teen son still suffers from anxiety on a day-to-day basis, especially in these tumultuous times (COVID-19, Inflation, crime, racism, etc.). No matter how we try to shield him from the world out there, it is something that he has to learn to tolerate and find ways to cope with the right tools. Here are some of the tools we still use to calm his anxiety:
Deep Breathing Exercises
When our son was diagnosed with autism around age 4, he had bouts of frustration and anxiety while in school and in various situations. Most of the time, the SPED/Resource teachers did not have the proper training or educational background to deal with this anxiety, so he was usually left alone in a principal’s office, or the school would call us to come pick him up. We would usually have our son calm down by deep breath exercises and relying on apps with soothing/calm exercises. In certain situations, we still may come to this exercise so that he can continue doing whatever he needs to do.
We encourage our son to exercise every single day because this can help with a lot of things all at the same time. The movement of muscles and aerobic conditioning of the whole body itself, can calm down elevated stress levels. Which is why we try to model this for him most days and share with him how great we feel afterwards. Overall, working out has many benefits and helps with his anxiety as well. This is probably another reason why most private therapists, especially occupational therapists, encourage some type of extracurricular team sport or exercise to help alleviate stress and anxiety for autistic individuals.
Natural or Herbal Supplements
Ashwagandha-I learned about this supplement while researching natural ways to calm anxiety because it was recommended that our autistic son may need medication later on or at least as he matures. We were not ready to do that and found that this supplement helps keep the edge off most days and is formulated to calm anxiety. You can find out more about its benefits of promoting relaxation and more here.
Yogurt- Gut health is so very important but even more so if you have a child/teen/adult on the spectrum. We learned early that our son loved yogurt before he went to bed at night and after his meal or even as a snack (which he still does presently). This really helped him with digestion, calm his gut bacteria and so much more. We don’t eat the more sugary yogurts anymore but have switched exclusively to greek and probiotic type yogurts for gut health and this really helps calm the whole system (as well as our own). Studies show that a person’s gut bacteria affect mood and anxiety levels. (source)
Calmes Forte– I started periodically giving this all-natural homeopathic supplement to my son years ago because sometimes he would have trouble falling asleep (still does from time to time) and I used to call them his “sleepy vitamins” because they help him sleep. He has not asked for them in a while, but I always have them on hand just in case.
Fiber-Remember I mentioned how our son loves his yogurt, he also loves bread, cheese….and more cheese, especially macaroni and cheese. But with all of that cheese comes constipation and an “angry gut”. So, fiber has become our friend. I have tried the different kinds of fiber out there, but our favorite for the entire family is Fiber Choice. It tastes good and works really well, plus our son does not complain about the taste. He does not care for salads very much unless its creamy (potato salad, macaroni salad, etc.) you get my drift.
These are what we use and continue to do to help ease our son’s high anxiety. Although they may not work for everyone, especially your child, seek out other treatment as well. For us this is what works now so if it ever changes, then we will look for other ways to help him cope. As all parents of autistic children do every day. I hope you enjoyed this article and that it helps you wherever you are in your journey.
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Mandu Usoro is a lifestyle blogger, freelance writer, experienced homeschooler and US Army Veteran with a BS Degree in Social Work and AA Degrees in Psychology as well as Health Care Administration. She enjoys spending time with her family, advocating for her special needs son and writing for fun and inspiration. You can get in touch with her on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and at https://www.homeschoolspecneedstidbits.com/contact-us