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School-related Anxiety in Aspergers Children

"My 15 year old son has just had a meltdown over exams at school today and I'm at home with him - afraid to leave him alone and go to work in case he does something silly to himself. When he loses control, he bashes walls, rants, raves and finally curls up and hides somewhere (what I consider to be the danger period where he beats up on himself). He’s a very intelligent boy …places extreme expectations on himself. I try my best to reason, but with little success."

Research has shown that the rate of anxiety symptoms in kids with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) is much higher than the “average” youngster. More than 75% of all kids with Aspergers experience intense anxious feelings. For people without Aspergers, anxiety most often begins during the late teens and early adulthood – but if it appears together with Aspergers, it can be present even in young kids. Some of the symptoms of anxiety in Aspergers kids include:
  • Anger management problems
  • Avoidance of new situations
  • Insisting on rules and routines
  • Irritability
  • Preference for sameness
  • Repetitive behavior
  • Rigidity
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Somatic complaints
  • Tantrums 
  • Test anxiety

Aspergers and Sensory Overload—

Kids with Aspergers are known to have problems with sensory overload. This means they can be overly sensitive to touch, tastes, textures in the mouth, movements, loud sounds or lights. They receive too much information or stimuli from their environment, which can explain some of their typical behaviors such as keeping their ears covered in a crowd, their clumsiness or their unwillingness to go to social gatherings. Their poor communication skills and social withdrawal may also be caused by the input of too much sensory information in the brain.

Sensory overload occurs when the brain receives too much sensory information. This sensory information is needed to interact with the world around us. The only way we receive this information is through the senses which help us to find out where we need to put our attention, how to react or when to ignore stimuli. The senses can be seen as a filter that helps us protect ourselves against too much information.

But if that filter does not work properly and lets in way too much information, it is impossible to function normally. Unable to sort out the right sensory information, Aspergers kids become overwhelmed by the world around them and are unable to react to it effectively.

Signs of Sensory Overload:

• Overly sensitive when touched, refusing to be held or cuddled
• Easily distracted
• Avoiding moving playground equipment such as swings
• Emotional problems
• Social withdrawal
• Hyperactive
• Sensitive to sounds such as singing or humming
• Lack of fear even when it would be appropriate
• Unaware of dangers
• Clumsiness
• Anger management problems
• Unable to calm themselves down
• Unable to stop their behavior, even when it is asked
• Impulsive
• Delayed motor skills
• Delayed language acquisition
• Delayed speech skills
• Refusing to get splashed by water in the face (taking a shower)
• Unable to wear anything with clothing tags still in it
• Fainting when too much sounds or lights are unexpectedly present.

"Typical" kids will learn to make sense of the information by interacting with others and through their daily play activities. However, kids with Aspergers lack social interaction with others, and because their senses are overly sensitive, they have to put more effort into all the normal simple stuff others take for granted. Learning new things or playing with others is much more difficult this way.

Sensory Integration Therapy:

The purpose of Sensory Integration therapy is to engage kids in fun activities which will help them integrate the sensory information. The therapy involves deep pressure, brushing, massage, vibration, and the use of play equipment such as inclines, balls, swings, and tunnels. This way they learn to get more control over their bodies and their environment. It’s a creative fun way to interact with kids and has shown some amazing results.

There are possibilities for a home program or specific types of activities you can do yourself. It is fun to interact with your youngster this way and it helps them too! If your youngster has specific problems that re-occur in daily life, a good therapist will train you to help your youngster. Look for a qualified therapist – an OTR specialized in sensory integration. You can look in the Yellow Pages under therapy, occupational therapy or physical therapy and call clinics or hospitals that specialize in pediatrics. Most therapists are not qualified to give Sensory Integration Therapy. Make sure you find a qualified ORT!


•    Anonymous said... My 9 y.o. was finally put on RX for anxiety and since then, a year has passed and he has seen a dramatic decrease in the levels of anxiety he exhibits, the number of meltdown incidents, and the recovery time from those meltdowns is much shorter now too. He can see things/situations more clearly now that the anxiety isn't crippling him any longer. He is finding himself competent in so many ways and we are soaking it up! A confident, caring, super smart boy who can now speak for himself most of the time and who always wants to do his best....I attribute that to the RX. it was near the bottom of our list of options, after trying so many other Things and it, plus all those other things, have really been life changing. I hope you explore the possibility that a medication maybe able to help your son deal with his anxiety. Anxiety can be crippling...I know because I have it and I take medication for it and ive had panic attacks. The moral of my story here is that we were very cautious about medicating our child for a neurological condition and we delayed doing so but the results of that particular therapy have been phenomenal and life changing. I wish the same for your child.
•    Anonymous said... Have him write a dairy. Can be dot points with his feelings. You might find a routine and get closer to the issue of what makes him so anxious. I tried several things myself to help my daughter, it is growing above my knowledge. I am too close to her and therefor she is now seeing a psychotherapist to help her. What frustrates me the most is that everything the therapist is giving as advise, I am already doing. It is just that my daughter needs to hear it from someone else to confirm what I have said. I can feel your frustration, and it is not an easy road, but role play does work!
•    Anonymous said... I am in a similar position with my 8 year old. He can't grasp the concept of things like "What 3 things are you most excited about?" All he sees is that he hates school, and nobody is listening to him. He is on anti-anxiety meds. We were told by the school yesterday that he should start to settle in grade 4, which is 2016. Is putting an Aspergers child in a social situation, which goes against their nature and causes extreme anxiety not going to cause long-term self-esteem problems? Our children cannot learn how to socialize just by being in a school environment. They need to be taught how to socialize. I have reached a wall.
•    Anonymous said... I bought a lamp for my son I put it on for about an hr everyday & it defo helps plus got him nytol cos he suffers from a sleeping disorder & this also helps but he's 14 & I'm not sure if there's something like that for a 9 yr old think nytol is from 12 yrs plus x
•    Anonymous said... I son had aspergers. He is 10 now. We had to finally home school with computer. He is doing 100% better. At school we had light issue. Sounds in chapel and music. Ear plugs helped. The Ada meds made agitation worse instead of better. He was at the point his friends were not interested in things he was and he was agitated easy. He feels better not have people looking at him
•    Anonymous said... There are a lot of good ideas out there. We tried some. It's just not that simple. I had to take from everything I could and try to apply it to our ways. He is so smart he would be very insulted with stickers. Kids and parents are different. You can tx me anytime.

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Anonymous said...

I have a 12 year old daughter with Aspergers, she is so anxious and stressed about going to school and not learning anything because she's on sensory overload the whole time and has no idea what's going on, she gets no help, I'm considering home schooling, I'm a single working mum and don't know how I can work this, what are my options?

Anonymous said...

My son is only 6 and already beats himself up over not getting thing is a scary thing...honey I will keep you in our prayers and thoughts..much love coming your way...if you ever need someone to just talk to I am here..

Anonymous said...

Going through somewhat of the same thing. Dr had to admit my 12 yr old son to behavior care at hospital. So my prayers go out to you. It broke my heart but its what he needs for a few days. They need to adjust his meds

Anonymous said...

We have similar issues with my 16 (17 next week) year old. She doesn't hurt herself, but totally melts down and shuts down.

Anonymous said...

He was admitted last night. It breaks my heart but he needs inpatient treatment :’(

Anonymous said...

My 7 yr old is the same ..its so scary I've been asking for help with him for so long but keep failing - we r still waiting official diagnosis been waiting 18 mth so far :-(

Anonymous said...

My 13 year-old is the same. He very seldom lets them see this at school. But @ home I get the brunt of it. He's always thinking about what he needs to do to get in to college, but he's overwhelming himself in 7th grade!

Anonymous said...

My 10 year old is the same way. I always say that he is his own worst critic. My son places unrealisti expectations on himsel. I always try to explain that he is only human but when things go wrong he will bang his head on the floor and walls and it scares me. My son was just diagnosed but I have been dealing with these issues from the beginning.

Anonymous said...

my son is 16,he's having meltowns in school,they have new clinical psychologist who thinks could be trauma but isn't sure and wants to try employees treatment,even though I have diagnosis for asperger but he told me not to worry bout them it will only label him?

Anonymous said...

if you can access the program, the secret agent society is fantastic social skills traning program. My 8yr old has just started it and after 1 session I have noticed a difference in his understanding of emotions

Anonymous said...

It's your call whether to take this advice or not but I'll tell you how I handle my son's self loathing. I learned early on that trying to sooth only made the problem escalate so I flipped it on him and agreed with him, but in a fun, silly grandiose way. [He had to understand I was kidding] When he would go on about how awful he was I'd say,"'re right, you're the worst kid ever. Good grief how am I going to go on with a kid like you around. I think I'll just give up and move to the mountains and survive by eating bugs and snails...." You get the idea.
When I mirrored his desperate, inflated emotions he realized how inappropriate and exaggerated they were and was able to rein himself in. Every Aspergers child is different and you know your son best, mine is very intelligent, high functioning and thank God he has a sense of humor. I did this for him when he was only 4. Now he is 10 I'm not looking forward to the challenge of the teenage years.

Unknown said...

My child is 5 he has been diagnosed with severe adhd and aggression but i think he has aspergers. He has all the signs and things. He is very agressive and if he wants something he is relentless..."mom i want ice cream" he is like a broken record on repeat and DOES NOT stop until i give in or we have a yelling match....i just dont know what to do with him anymore. I love him i want him to be happy but he cant always have ice cream 24/7. I have other kids so its not fair to them not to have it in the house but im tired of fighting him. The violence is very scary especially since hes only 5....whats to come at 15 is terrifying!

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content