While autism and anxiety often correlate, anxiety is not a part of the diagnostic criteria for an autism diagnosis. However, it is one of the most common comorbid conditions that develops in people with autism. In that regard, it’s easy to believe that any feeling of anxiety or panic might be associated with a person’s autism. The reality is that these conditions exist independently of one another, but they can both exacerbate certain feelings caused by the colliding conditions. Parents and caregivers often come to Lexington staff and ask how they can help their loved ones with autism manage an anxiety attack. If you are in that position, try to remember these tips to help them through the panic and calm down.
Meltdown Prevention Kits
Anxiety and panic coupled with sensory overload can cause a person with autism to have a meltdown and an anxiety attack at the same time. This can amplify the feelings that occur during both events and make it very difficult for people to calm down. As discussed in a previous blog post, a vital step to help people through meltdowns is to carry a meltdown kit that might include sunglasses, noise-cancelling headphones and a fidget toy. These implements can help someone avoid or even overcome the sensory overload symptoms and can be used in tandem to slow heart rates and help account for anxiety.
After the initial events have subsided, it’s important that you track what caused the issue. Much like you would track a sensory trigger that caused a meltdown, it’s also important to track what caused an anxiety attack. Some triggers can be avoided and some cannot, but an awareness of the triggers can help to slow or stop an anxiety attack before it happens. Encourage a loved one to keep an anxiety diary that details the situation that happened, how they felt and how anxious they were on a 1 to 10 scale. It’s also good for loved ones and caregivers to keep track of these incidents as well.
Autism and anxiety often cross in their symptoms and the management of some of those symptoms. For people with autism, routine becomes vital to make sure that their lives don’t intersect with triggers that cause them discomfort. An anxiety attack can also be avoided with a routine that helps manage triggers might cause panic or stress. Encourage balance to help your loved ones avoid overstimulation and subsequent panic attacks.
An anxiety attack is never fun, but people with autism have a particularly difficult time managing anxiety and sensory issues. At Lexington, our therapy team helps people manage these sensory stimulations through Sensory Integration Therapy. This process gets to the root of the sensory issues and uses evidence-based therapeutic practices to help kids manage those stimulations in a positive manner. Since you stopped by, sign the Lexington guest book for us and we’ll send you an in depth video about Sensory Integration Therapy for free.