Autism is a difficult condition, characterized by a variety of behaviors that can make it difficult for these children to have a high quality of life. There are social issues at play, there are learning disabilities, there is a lack of understanding about autism with the rest of the community – there are a lot of factors that make living with autism a challenge.
Those with autism spectrum disorders are also prone to suffering from anxiety. That anxiety is often difficult to treat, because anxiety treatments for those without autism are not always effective on those with autism – nor have most anxiety treatments been studied on the autistic population. Unfortunately, anxiety is still very prevalent in this group, and can be caused by some or all of the following factors.
Causes of Anxiety in Autistic Children
• Social Anxiety
Children with autism often struggle with social anxiety, thanks to a combination of different problems. Lack of awareness about autism can make it difficult for autistic children to develop good friendships. Misreading social cues and a lack of social awareness may cause the child to feel uncomfortable with social situations. The more the child struggles to bond with those around them the more they may feel anxious when around others.
• Change/Routine
Children with autism also strive on routines. Routines represent comfort, and are often advised to parents of autistic children. If something breaks that routine, however, it can easily cause anxiety, because it represents change. Change represents the unknown, and often children with autism are unable to cope adequately with fear of the unknown. The break from the routine may be minor, like a different type of cereal, or something much greater, like moving to a new home or a parents’ divorce. Any deviation from a set routine can cause anxiety in your child.
• Mental Frustration
Children with autism often struggle to communicate, and that struggle can lead to a level of frustration that manifests itself as anxiety. Frustration causes a lot of misplaced energy, and persistent frustration can only lead to greater levels of anxiety and stress.
• Inadequate Coping Strategies
Some anxiety in day to day life is natural for everyone. However, most people are able to learn their own coping strategies over time in order to reduce the impact of those daily stressors. Children with autism spectrum disorder are less likely to have learned many of these coping strategies – strategies that often involve talking to others, depending on friends, and other behaviors designed to reduce stress. Without those coping strategies, any and all anxiety experienced throughout the day can linger and build upon each other.
• Poor Treatment From Others
Finally, children with autism are often misunderstood by others, and that lack of understanding leads to fear, distress, discomfort, and other emotions that can lead to greater levels of anxiety. They may be spoken to in a way that causes distress or “handled” by classmates and teachers in a way that reflects their own anxiety or inexperience, and these interactions may easily lead to greater amounts of stress, and ultimately more anxiety.
Children with Autism and Anxiety
Autistic children also lack social support that helps them overcome these challenges. They may also suffer more from family problems, especially if parents are experiencing any of their own stress. Whatever the causes, there are a variety of reasons that children with autism are more at risk for developing anxiety symptoms.
Treating This Anxiety
Children with anxiety are also more likely to grow up with other mental health problems, and their quality of life throughout childhood will be low. That is why it is important to find ways to treat your child’s anxiety. While most treatment options are in development, several have shown success at reducing overall anxiety symptoms.
Children with autism spectrum disorders have responded very well to cognitive behavioral therapy, but this therapy does need to be completed by those with experience delivering therapy to children with autism. Currently research is still being conducted about how to best provide this type of therapy, but early reports show a great deal of success.
Developing routines for your child is also important, and there are a variety of “relaxation” exercises that you can do for your child that will decrease the amount of stress they feel regularly. Placing pressure on your child’s joints is considered very soothing, as is “body brushing” – an activity that involves putting pressure with a special brush over certain parts of your child’s body. Play therapies are also being developed.
Taking advantage of these treatments is important for every parent. Your child’s anxiety can be reduced with the right treatment/therapy option, but if left on its own it may develop into a more serious anxiety issue. Reducing your child’s overall anxiety should then be a priority in order to improve your child’s quality of life, as well as your own.

Author's Bio: 

Ryan Rivera suffered from severe anxiety and has created a portal for others to learn more about anxiety and panic attacks which can be found at www.calmclinic.com.