Strategies for easing Anxiety in Nonverbal Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Regardless of where a child is on the autism spectrum, anxiety is common among individuals with ASD. It is more severe in children who are non-verbal as they struggle to explain what is bothering them or making them anxious. So, it almost seems impossible to help a nonverbal child with anxiety without losing your cool.
Addressing this issue, Stepping Stones leverages specific strategies that are designed to help children improve their communication skills and cope with anxiety.
In this blog, we will discuss these strategies and how your child can benefit from them:
Strategy 1: Always get professional help
Consult a behavioral therapist for help. They will be aware of numerous tried and tested strategies that help in easing anxiety in nonverbal children with ASD. Hence, before you try anything on your own, it is always advisable to first get professional help and later on follow recommended strategies at home. You can also read various books on how to help children overcome anxiety and fears.
Strategy 2: Create a soothing phrase for anxiety
Once you know what makes your child your child anxious, create a few phrases around it. For example, if your child gets scared when they see a dog, you can use phrases like, dogs are man's best friend or dogs are friendly. Use these phrases when you're talking to your child so they know, they have nothing to fear. We have seen that children repeat these phrases and tend to understand the meaning and for children who are completely nonverbal, hearing the phrase alone helps to a great extent.
Strategy 3: Enact anxiety-provoking situations using your child’s favorite character
By following guidelines from your child’s behavioral therapist, make your child talk about what scares him the most. While he talks, gradually introduce his favorite cartoon or movie character and enact a scene with him. Let’s assume we are dealing with a child who loves Mickey Mouse and is scared of dogs. First, make him familiar with both the Mickey Mouse stuffed toy and the Dog, so he can understand the act. Here’s what you can do - Take the Mickey Mouse toy, and enact how Mickey Mouse gets scared too when he sees a dog. As you’re halfway through the story, make your child hold the Mickey Mouse toy and move it towards the dog.
Strategy 4: Show children how to perceive various emotions
Recognizing emotions helps in developing coping strategies to overcome anxiety. Show various emotions to your child with the help of his favorite character. Let us take the same example again - Mickey mouse and the Dog. Show your child a scared face when the Mickey mouse is approaching the dog and use short phrases like “Mickey feels sacred.” This helps children in understanding and think about what is it that they are frightened of while taking part in the play. Please note, If your child is minimally verbal or nonverbal, it doesn't mean they do not understand the language.
Strategy 5: Reduce Sensory Overload
When children with ASD are exposed to sensory overload, anxiety spikes. Hence, it is recommended that you find a quiet and a soothing place while dealing with their anxiety. Schedule quiet time for your child before they start their day and deal with various activities.
Are you looking for more? Get in touch with our Behavioral Therapist for detailed assistance.
For more information regarding sensory therapy, cognitive skills, behavior therapy, developmental disorders, and early intervention, please contact Stepping Stones Center. We emphasize on acquiring new and appropriate behaviors, while also working on helping the child achieve developmentally age-appropriate milestones through evidence-based practices.