How do I deal with anxiety for child with autism?

Question: Do you know of any herbal meds that help with anxiety? My son is 11 years old and diagnosed with autism. He has been having trouble in school and has not been able to focus. His anxiety levels are very high. Thanks.

Answer: Making sure your son is not having a problem sleeping and does not have a lot of caffeine or sugar in his diet are good ways to prevent anxiety. A diet rich with omega-3 fatty acids or DHA is also important because a deficiency in this can cause anxiety and depression symptoms. You may read more about this in my free eBook.

I have found the Disney gummy vitamins (we get the "Cars" kind) to be great in providing essential vitamins and DHA without the fishy taste. My son loves them. They also don't have artificial flavors or colors. The artificial color Red dye 40 in my opinion may also contribute to anxiety as it has been known to cause irritability, so you may consider trying to remove this from his diet.

Recently, I have been reading some really good studies about a natural remedy called passionflower for anxiety and many other related issues.
However, I am not sure about its use with children. You can search the internet specifically related to this to get more information.

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Is it possible my son has a aspergers?

by Mary
(Bristol, UK)

Question:My 9 year son has gone through years of problems in all sorts of situations. He has always been different to his brother, quiet talking, prefering to play computer games than any other activity, obsessed by his interests not entertaining other interests, it took social skills training for him to interact with his classmates as before that he only had '1' person he could call a friend.

He is very black & white, takes things literally, needs things to be in certain places in his room, needs routine, is inflexible, likes to finish something completely, is a perfectionist in his school work and will only accept 100% and no lower. He is fantastic at numeracy, spellings and reading, but finds it hard to sit still and will sit on hand, knees, across a table etc, looks like he is not listening to you and yet hears every word you say when you ask him to repeat.

He does not like change, needs to be asked to do things in a very basic straight forward way without any question in your voice ie. 'go and get ready for bed please', instead of 'would you like to go and get ready for bed' and has a jackal/hyde personality and if upset can totally loose his cool switching to a scared/anxious boy who will do anything to escape the situation, including climbing over school tables, out windows, and kicking screaming when restrained.

He has been excluded from school 3 times for outbursts, but the teachers say he behaves, and is lovely when not in an outburst and is just totally unpredictable because the slightest little thing can set him off in a major outburst. I am about to see a child psychologist to see if he needs assessment, he himself says he needs help because he can't help the way he gets angry, a couple of people have mentioned aspergers to me, from reading my description is this a possibility I should ask the psychologist about?

many thanks in advance xx

- Concerned Mum of a very loved 9yr old confused boy

Answer: It definitely sounds like your son could use an evaluation by a psychologist. Asperger syndrome sounds possible, but it's hard to say for sure without observing him and doing concrete testing. You may also want to consider having him evalutated by an occupational therapist to rule out any sensory related issues.

Sensory Processing Disorder can coexist or have somewhat similar symptoms to autism or aspergers. Some of the symptoms you describe may be the result of his inability to properly process sensory information and so he tries to control the situation to help him process better. Either way finding help is the your best option, so you are on the right track.

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Is Attending a School for Autism a Good Idea?

by Concerned Mum
(South Africa)

Would you advise a child with mild autism characteristics to attend a school with children that have full spectrum autism considering that part of kids learning involves watching and imitating others?

My child has been diagnosed by the educational psychologist as having mild characteristics of autism and the SI Therapist is not entirely sure at this stage as it could be ADHD symptoms. We have been advised that he attend this special school that deals with autistic children.

I am so confused at this stage as I believe that by putting him in a normal school and having the therapies out of school can help my son improve. This way he learns in a normal environment and gets influenced by the kids around him as well so that he can adapt to mainstream schooling.

Having read the information in this website, I am beginning to think that perhaps it is not my call at all and I should just put him in the special school.

Can you please advise if a child can develop if he is put into a normal play school that is willing to accept him knowing the challenges and we do therapy privately with the speech therapist and SI Therapist after hours? Can this work or does the child have to be in a special school? Thank you.

Answer: There are many children with autism that do not go to special schools for autism, especially if they have mild symptoms. It is completely determined on the specific child in question. Does he seem to need more structure and other environmental modifications that aren't possible at a mainstream school? Does he have any social skills at all?

Sometimes it helps to start in a school for autism and then after using those resources to determine the things that work best for your child, you can provide them in a modified form in a mainstream school.

They may also have a specific classroom for children with mild characteristics so that it won't seem as if he is in a class with children that are so severe he ends up regressing. I think your main goal should be to mainstream him, as it is for all children with autism symptoms.

Whether he is able to do this now or after some time in a school for autism, depends on what you and the rest of those evaluating/working with him decide. It's possible you could always try a mainstream classroom and if it doesn't work out then make a switch.

Hope this helps. Ultimately if he can do the school work and doesn't have significant behavioral problems, a mainstream school may be a good place for him, but I can't say for sure without meeting him myself.

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Signs and Symptoms of Autism

by Racquel

Should I worry...

Question: I have an 8 yr. old with ASD and I have a 3 1/2 yr old. My 3 yr old's behavior is hard to handle, and at her preschool she is giving her teachers a hard time. Should I worry or do I have another with Autism traits?---Racquel

Answer: It's possible that your 3 year old is showing signs and symptoms of autism, but it's also very possible that she is just testing her limits as 3 year olds often do.

I would review the link above to see if there are any other possible symptoms. Talk with her teachers about having some concrete ways to handle her behavior.

She may just have difficulties with sensory challenges as children with autism often do, but not actually have an autism spectrum disorder.

If she is having sensory challenges she may be having behavioral problems due to difficulties changing activities, loud noises in the room or bright lights.

You may find that a picture schedule will help with transitions and developing a sensory diet will help her to cope with other stimuli. An occupational therapist can help with the sensory diet.

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Autism Interventions

by Janna Schwartz
(Roanoke, VA)

How many hours a week does it take for DTT to be effective for a child with autism?

Question: I am a teacher for preschool autism, and I have had some interesting conversations with parents recently. We use the ABA techniques in the classroom, with Discrete Trial Training (DTT) being a part of our curriculum. However, we use many of the evidenced based practices all falling under the ABA umbrella.

We have a 2 year old (new this year) and our day for 2/3 year olds extends for 4 hours/day/week (we are considering making it a full day for all students in the autism program regardless of age). We are continuously working with him on his goals no matter if we are in circle, lunch, or trials...

So, question is, how many hours of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is recommended for a child of 2 with autism (with little to no learning to learn skills at this point) and how many hours of DTT?

Answer: A minimum of 20 hours per week of ABA autism interventions is recommended for a child regardless of age, although the earlier it is implemented the better, to notice an improvement in symptoms.

Despite this recommendation, when looking at the early research conducted by Ivar Lovaas, ABA autism interventions that were implemented 40 hours per week for a minimum of 2 years showed the greatest success rate.

In my opinion, having a 2 year old attend a full day of school engaged in intensive ABA autism therapy could become overwhelming. A child that age should still be taking a good nap in the afternoon, which is very important for having adequate attention and concentration to learn.

So, in my opinion, having a 2 year old child go to school 4-5 hours, go home for a nap and then getting additional ABA autism interventions at home would be most effective.

However, I know this is not always realistic as in home treatment can be very expensive. I suppose for a child that refuses to nap, a full day would be a good option with the parents trying to give him/her an earlier bedtime to ensure adequate sleep.

With respect to how much of those 40 hours should be DTT – I would say that essentially all of it should be initially, and most of it at the table. As the table skills are being acquired, more and more time might be spent in the playroom and the bathroom, etc. Then, much later more and more of it might evolve from DTT to free operant.

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