How to help a child with autism that has anxiety

How to help a child with autism that has anxiety

A common problem for almost everyone with autism disorder, young or old, is anxiety. Because of the sensory, speech and social deficits in the autistic population, tasks that would be perceived as simple by others are a source of great frustration and anxiety to those with autism. Because of this fact, it is vital to have effective, simple coping mechanisms. Some of the most valuable are selected forms of exercise, music therapy, two different herbal formulations, specific foods, and a written schedule or contract for higher-functioning, older individuals.

Vigorous exercise – especially for high-energy boys with autism – is extremely effective. It is very difficult for them to focus for long periods of time, especially on difficult, abstract concepts. As a result, behavior problems and restlessness can occur. Aerobic exercises such as shooting baskets, soccer, long or short-distance running, and working out on a treadmill work well. In addition, ten minutes of jumping on a mini-trampoline, for unknown reasons, has a very beneficial effect on the entire nervous system.

Mini-trampolines help with balance, focus, upper and lower body strength, and weight loss. Many people with autism have poor muscle tone and balance, and some, as a result of medications they may be taking, are overweight. Utilizing a mini-trampoline several times a day is therapeutic on many levels.

There are several different herbs which, taken at the onset of a bout with anxiety, can have very beneficial effects within twenty minutes to a half hour. The first, L-Theanine, is an amino acid found in tea plants. It causes the release or reduction of neurotransmitters called dopamine and serotonin, which increase memory and learning skills. Within thirty minutes of ingestion, it also has a relaxing effect without a feeling of being sedated. It is extremely safe, with no side effects. The suggested dosage is from 50-200 mg, and its effects last for up to 8 hours. (1)

Another herb, valerian, is also very helpful. It has been used for many years as a treatment for sleep disorders, attention deficit disorder, and anxiety. During World War II, it was used in England to relieve the stress of air raids. It has some of the same effects as L-Theanine, although it is not recommended for children under the age of three. The suggested dosage is 600 mg. (2)

A third herb, passion flower, is known for its soothing properties assisting the nerves. It has been supported by clinical trials. When used in combination with st. john’s wort, it is extremely effective. Some herbs, when used in combination, are more effective than when used individually. (3)  Here is a natural supplement that has helped many people with autism.

There are some foods that people with autism actually crave. The most common ones that I have seen, both with my own autistic son and reports by other parents of autistic children, are turkey and certain nuts, primarily cashews. A very probable reason for the craving is their high content of tryptophan, which is a calming agent occurring naturally in both foods in rather high amounts. So moms, when your autistic child returns from school with high energy and frustration, give them a snack of turkey and cashews, and tell them to run around the block or shoot some baskets!  

The next suggestion, a written schedule or contract, is best saved for another article. It is extremely effective with older, high-functioning autistic individuals. A schedule gives a sense of control and order to the life of a person with autism, and makes it much easier for them to function. More about that in another article…..

Try some of these simple, effective ideas, and I feel certain that life with autism will be calmer for everyone concerned!

References:

http://www.web-us.com/l-theanine_anxiety_reducer.htm
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/valerian.asp
J Clin Pharm Ther: 2001, 26(5):369-373

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