Single Moms Raising Autistic Sons

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Anxiety in Autistic Children by Ryan Rivera

Ryan Rivera found my blog and the post I had written about Griffin's anxiety so he asked me if I could publish this article and I gladly agreed to do so. As far as my knowledge and experience goes with Griffin this article rings true but I cannot claim to guarantee all his methods. Do read on because I feel that it is very informative.

5 Modern Techniques to Relieve Anxiety and Improve Comfort in Autistic Children
Persistent anxiety is a common problem with autistic children. Stress and anger often manifest themselves into serious anxiety issues, and without the right treatment, this anxiety can take its toll on the quality of life of you and your child.
Traditionally, anxiety disorders are treated by therapy. While cognitive behavioral therapy has shown benefits for children living with anxiety disorders, the communication and interpersonal issues associated with autism may make it less effective as a long term strategy. That is why researchers are developing new techniques to try to combat anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorders.
Causes of Anxiety in Those with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Children with autism tend to experience greater levels of anxiety than typically developing children. There are many potential causes of anxiety, and the more anxiety a child experiences, the more they are at risk for persistent anxiety issues in the future. Some potential causes of anxiety include:
  • Lack of Routine – Children with autism are much more comfortable when they have a regular routine. If something breaks that routine – either because of a move or a change in the household or because no routine has been successfully established – it can cause the child to experience considerable stress that may become persistent anxiety.
  • Frustration – Autistic children are often trying to communicate and can be frustrated when they are not understood or their needs are not being met. Frustration is a powerful emotion, and the energy they experience may manifest as anxiety.
  • Fear – Like frustration, fear and confusion can also be powerful emotions that may increase feelings of anxiety. Any type of strong negative emotion has the potential to become excess and misplaced energy that can cause your child to experience anxiety. Fear may also be caused by too much sensory information.
  • Socialization Difficulties – Children with autism often struggle with forming friendships. The act of socializing may cause its own frustrations and anxiety, but exacerbating the problem is the lack of perceived social support that some autistic children experience. Psychological studies emphasize the importance of social support with anxiety and other disorders.
  • Family Stress – If you are experiencing stress of frustration, your child may easily pick up on it. Autistic children may be easily affected by the family dynamic, and the more they are sensing stress for you or your partner, the more it may affect them.
Most children experience minor levels of anxiety in these situations, and it does not develop into an anxiety disorder. But if the anxiety becomes more common and consistent, your child may have developed a serious anxiety disorder, and treating that anxiety is an important part of creating a better quality of life for your child, and for you.
Developments in Anxiety Treatments for Children with Autism
Several organizations and researchers have been looking into effective ways to treat anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorders. Like most activities, their success depends largely on your child’s ability to work with the program. The most important thing is to find a program that your child will adjust to, because with autism there is no such thing as a guaranteed solution. However, many of the following activities and therapies may be useful for improving recovery.
  • Surf Camp
Surf camps are one of the most interesting new developments in anxiety reduction for autistic children. During the year, children attend a camp with trained surfers to learn to surf, both with others and one on one. The camps have shown success in improving self-esteem and providing children with an outlet that may decrease their anxiety.
Parents are often allowed to attend, which may improve bonding and give parents a potential activity to complete with their children. Surf camps are meant to provide a stress-free outlet that could have potential long lasting benefits.
  • Compression
Most parents of children with autism are familiar with compression. Children with autism often have an interesting sensory processing system that differs from non-autistic children. It’s been found that compression (sometimes referred to as “deep touch” or “deep touch pressure”) has calming effects on many autistic children.
Placing pressure on the shoulders, elbows, feet, fingers, and other joints is able to improve the flow of sensory information to the central nervous system, which helps children focus and decreases their need to provide their own type of stimulation.
Parents are easily able to perform compression techniques using their hands, but research is also being conducted on machines that may be able to provide more beneficial and balanced compression around the child’s body. A hug machine developed by Dr. Temple Grandin in 1965 has been used in some treatment programs, and modifications are still in development for similar devices that may help reduce anxiety in the future.
  • Body Brushing
Body brushing is similar to compression. It was developed as a therapy technique for ADHD but has shown benefits for children with autism. Using a special soft brush, you or a trained therapist will rub the brush firmly against the child’s skin. Research has shown that body brushing for 5 minutes a day can have a lasting calming effect for as long as two or three hours depending on the child. Body brushing needs to be done several times a day to have the maximum effect. Also, it’s important that you only brush the correct areas. The arms, legs, back, shoulders and feet are the best areas for the body brush. Brushing other areas (the face, stomach, or the neck) may only cause discomfort.
  • Modified Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy has been effective for non-autistic children, so researchers have been developing similar techniques for children with autism spectrum disorders. Most strongly resemble their traditional counterparts, but are more likely to integrate relaxation techniques and focus on social issues. It’s also been shown that effective cognitive behavioral therapies may improve overall social functioning and initiation, and it especially useful for children with high functioning autism spectrum disorders. Families are also included in most childhood CBT techniques.
  • Play Therapy
Play therapy has also had success as a treatment option for childhood anxiety. Play therapy involves simple interaction with a child, where the therapist plays with toys or blocks along with the child. The child then shares their problems (frustrations, stress, etc.) through the toys, interacting with the therapist in a way that reveals some of the issues that are bothering them. Once those problems are shared, the therapist then discusses those issues with the child while the two continue playing.
There are several variations of play therapy. Studies have shown that block therapy, most commonly referred to as LEGO Therapy, works very well with autistic children. While generally designed to improve communication and social competence, LEGO therapy also appears to also reduce anxiety.
Addressing Anxiety in the Home
One of the main causes of anxiety in autistic youth is persistent anxiety in the home – especially anxiety with parents and other children. That is why family therapy and addressing your own stress and anxiety issues is one of the best things you can do for your child.
It’s also important that your child be surrounding by a supportive and educated environment so that their needs are understood, both at the home and at school. Before you can hope to handle your child’s anxiety issues you must be able to address your own, and those of the people that surround your child on a regular basis.
The Importance of Addressing Childhood Anxiety in Autistic Children
Childhood anxiety is a serious problem – both in autistic and non-autistic children alike. In the past, anxiety has been treated like a temporary problem, especially in traditionally developing children. Children with anxiety are expected to grow out of their anxious issues as they get older, and little is done to address their needs with the expectation that these children will learn how to cope with general fear and anxiety and live a healthy life as an adult.
But studies have shown that even in traditionally developing children, the long term outlook for kids with anxiety disorders is somewhat discouraging. While some do recover, many also go on to developing more serious problems as adults, including depression. As a parent of someone with autism, it’s important to make sure that your son or daughter is treated as a child, because you do not want to introduce another potential difficulty in your child’s development.
Finding a Treatment That Works For Your Child
Childhood anxiety is already a serious problem. When it affects a child with autism, it is important to seek out effective treatment options. Surf camp, compression, and other methods of keeping your child calm are effective, and therapy has an excellent long term outlook, but the key is finding something that works for your child, and paying attention to any new solutions for general and social anxiety. Every day there is research designed to locate new ways to help autistic child adjust and cope, and any one of these methods may be an effective way to reduce your child’s anxiety.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera has spent his life dedicating himself to research and treatment into anxiety disorders and recovery. To learn more, visit’>

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Working Towards Progress

We are expecting some new changes next week when the Family Preservation team come to our home in order to help us learn how to co-operate to get Griffin on the bus without so much friction between us. Some days it is just impossible to get him out of bed, dressed, and out the door to the bus. It is time that I get some help other than just the Intuvin because he still has some aggressive outbursts and everything that I have tried just doesn't work.

I think that riding the bus is important for him because he can learn social skills with his peers, granted that it is not a mainstream bus it is still instrumental  in helping him learn how to be more independent and to cope with situations that might arise while away from mommy. He is quite fond of the bus driver and assistant so he does look to them for support.

I had a meeting with Griffin's teacher and he explained to me how Griffin has been doing in class. He is on the borderline of being "at risk" but we are taking steps to make some changes to help him turn that around. Mr. Kirk has given Griffin a lot of support and I feel that he has gone that extra mile that none of his teachers has done since moving to the lower 48 from Alaska. Griffin had the ideal situation in Anchorage so I am grateful to finally be getting our heads above water now.