One of the biggest challenges with Autism is how anxiety plays a part in the disorder. Anxiety is something we all feel from time to time, it exists to keep us safe. This is why we have a fight or flight response, for if we didn’t we would be eaten by animals. We wouldn’t know when we were in danger, so it is a necessity, but like so many things, too much of it is crippling and affects the person who has it and therefore those around them. The fight or flight response is triggered frequently or even continuously in very bad cases, and the person feels threatened and endanger, even if consciously they do not realize it. It can be presented as a feeling in your stomach, sweating, heart palpations, feelings of dread, feeling like you are having a heart attack or are going to die. It can just be a nagging feeling, and for children they usually do not have the vocabulary to describe any of these feelings so it just “freaks them out”.
People who have too much anxiety are often disagreeable, scared, can be seen as lazy (because the procrastinate on things that cause anxiety), think people are out to get them so they are more argumentative or if they do not have a outgoing personality, they think all of the same things that someone who is argumentative but do not share them with you. In serious cases these people sometimes cannot leave their homes, cannot go to certain events like concerts or to the movies where there are lots of people or too much darkness. They do not drive or avoid it whenever possible. They are afraid to take what would be considered normal risks, they get stuck in their own lives routines, they do not progress forward and often feel they are overwhelmed and chasing their own proverbial tails. All of us have had some of these issues temporarily, but for people with the disorder this is their normal lives, more than it is not. It affects the function of their lives on a day to day basis.
In children it would be seen in more simpler terms since they do not own cars and drive, they do not do the grocery shopping, they are not making huge decisions, but they do go shopping, the do ride in cars, they do make simple decisions, like deciding what they want to do next, or what movie to watch. So it affects their daily lives, and getting a hold of it now is important or their lives will be as mentioned above.
So how do you deal with the anxiety monster that maybe in your home? When it is people you know that you don’t live with it is actually harder. Because of the fine line of being caring and enabling the problem, they will often not see your attempts to help them in the moment, and of course it makes it difficult when you must watch everything you say. But in your own home with your child at least there you are the boss.
Lavender, lavender, lavender!!
Can’t stress the value of it enough. We have sachets of lavender, lavender sticks and incense, candles, and an Airwick nightlight in Noah’s room that constantly releases the lavender. We also use moisturizers, and bath products that are infused with lavender, never underestimate the power of scent!
Kava Kava and Passion flower, both are natural extracts that can be added to teas and drinks that curb over active anxiety, sometimes this is more for those who do not have the disorder. Because people who have anxiety issues are like sponges, they can sense your mood very easily and even if you are not acting out yourself, they can tell when you are nervous. So keeping yourself in check is very important if you want to have some peace. Also having a healthy diet and regular activity is very important to curbing anxiety. The same types of things we all should do so we too are healthy.
Water is charged with negative IONS , much like the beach and the mountains are charged with them. And people who have medical issues are sometimes recommended to live in these types of locations because of the powerful effects of negative ions. Think about the last time you were stressed and then went to the beach. Chances are you felt significantly better once there. Water has this effect also, so taking longer and more frequent baths and showers help reset the system. Water activities, water parks, swimming, and even just playing in the sink a bit are all ways to use water therapy. Nowadays there are indoor pools and water parks so there is help all year round. If it was cheaper, it would be better, but you have to do what you have to do.
Lower your expectations
For children, it may take them longer to transition from one activity to another. This is because of the feeling of what is going to happen rising in them. Just be patient, let it take a bit longer, you have to pick your battles in autism. This is one that teaches the teachers to be more patient. Because NOTHING in life is about getting what we want when we want it, so that applies to every one of us. Not just the children we are teaching. You should have expectations, but do not set them so high that you will be disappointed and therefore your child is now being filled with even more anxiety. They still have bedtimes, chores, and homework, but your expectations of when these things happen needs to be flexible. Then they learn what that means so they can apply it to their lives also.
The sad part about anxiety is that people who suffer from it a lot of time can wind up in lower paying, less glamorous jobs that do not require an education. For getting a higher education is a very difficult task for someone who suffers with anxiety. All of the choices, the work to be done at the same time, the travel, all the new experiences alone can overwhelm the person. And often, these jobs are headed by people who also lack some kind of skill in their life or motivation. And they can exploit the person’s anxiety, because often people who have anxiety feel they are always wrong. A poor manager may yell at an employee in front of customers because this makes them feel better about themselves, because the person they are yelling at isn’t going to stand up for themselves in a way that will matter to the manager. They are embarrassing them, or trying too. This is why many anxiety suffers seem so defensive because they are sick of feeling that way so they lash out on whoever they are close to. It does not make it ok either, if you are being accosted by a friend or family member that has anxiety. You are not their problem; you are not their punching bag. You do not have take it, just tolerate it as much as possible and never ever take it to heart or personally. Because chances are whatever the case maybe that they are taking out on you is off, and not your problem and not anything you really need to hear about. But it is what it is; you are a bigger person by not holding that against them. It doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, but figure that you deserve more breaks and pampering to yourself for being that hero.
The bottom line
If your child is suffering from anxiety it is your place to do something about it, if it is a grown adult then it is their choice to do something about it. Grown adults can fall into two different categories, either they feel they can’t do anything about it, or they truly can’t do anything and they need to be institutionalized. Chances are they just do not believe they can do anything, but the first step is admitting you have a problem, then sick out medical help, support from groups on the internet, read books. talk about it!! If they are so far gone they do not know what a computer is, or how to make a phone call or their name or whether they are on planet earth or not, they need professional round the clock care. Because we all have it, we all have troubles; we all have things we need to improve. We also all have the ability to choose to fix and work on these things. Patience, tolerance, flexibility, and peace within you are the biggest arsenals against anxiety, and a little lavender wouldn’t hurt either.
C.Dagnelli author of Little Squares with Colors : A Different way to Look at Autism