Mindfulness Techniques for Reducing Anxiety in Individuals With Autism
Children with autism who live with anxiety may have strong feelings of internal tension. They can feel a strain throughout their bodies, manifesting as stomach aches, a racing heart and muscle tension. Your child may have trouble expressing these feelings, which can cause meltdowns or aggressive behavior.
Anxiety-reducing techniques for children with autism include minimizing distracting thoughts from your child’s mind so they can experience their present state without judgment. This means learning to let go of anxious thoughts. With regular mindfulness, your child may find it easier to reach a state of calm. They may observe their emotions more rationally to better control challenging feelings.
How to Reduce Anxiety in Children With Autism
Mindfulness uses calming techniques to help reduce anxiety in children with autism. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often limits a child’s ability to hone in on and experience stimuli separately. Their senses are bombarded with many messages at once, which may make them feel out of control.
When you help your child categorize their experiences, they can examine each internal and external message. Categorizing helps strengthen their central coherence and balance their emotions.
1. Visualization Techniques
Visualization means helping your child close their eyes and imagine a peaceful and relaxing place. They can visualize the beach or the park, but it must make your child feel secure and at peace. Do this with them and guide them with your voice and breathing. Describe the sights and sounds of their happy place, and remember it’s OK if you’re not there with them in their calm retreat.
Visualization is a powerful tool that could aid in calming challenging emotions in your child. It can help reduce stressful feelings of anxiety, and they can do this for several minutes throughout the day.
2. Breathing Exercises
Taking deep breaths helps promote relaxation by calming tense muscles and bringing fresh oxygen into the body. This soothing exercise is especially beneficial for children with autism, as it helps relieve tension.
Practice diaphragmatic breathing with your child by placing one hand on their tummy and the other on their chest. They should feel their stomach going in as they breathe into their nose. Tell them this is the bad feeling emptying from their tummy. As they exhale out of their mouths, have them feel their chest go down and explain how that’s the bad feeling going out of their body completely.
3. Mindful Walks
Walking indoors or outdoors while mindful of your senses can help you feel more grounded and present. Committing to the moment can be challenging for children with ASD, but mindful walks can help. Walks utilize all their senses so they can have an awareness of their body and what they feel. This awareness may help your child come to a place of peace and feel more centered, which could reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
You and your child can walk indoors or outdoors as long as the path travels over different surfaces and textures. Try walking barefoot inside the house and encourage your child to feel the leaves and sand under their feet when walking outside. Have them feel the wind on their face and the sun on their skin and listen to any background sounds.
4. Sound Meditation
Sound meditation is a powerful way to focus on one sensory input while allowing the rest of the senses and body to relax. When a child with autism focuses on one thing — a sound, in this case — their mind and body quiet down, and their muscles can rest. You can use a small physical bell or chime if you have one or search for a single instrument sound online.
Ensure your child hears no other noise as you play the bell or chime sound. Have your child close their eyes and encourage them to listen to the instrument’s vibration as the sound washes over them. You can start farther away from them, then bring the sound closer. Ask your child questions about how it made them feel, what else they heard and what they imagined.
5. Mindful Relaxation
Children on the spectrum usually may not know how to manage several messages at once from the outside world. This feeling of bombardment, coupled with their inner anxiety, may result in restlessness. Mindful relaxation helps remedy this, where your child can feel the connection between their body and mind, helping bring them to a state of peace. They’re also encouraged to be aware of their feelings but not act on them.
Lay down with your child or sit where it’s comfortable. Close your eyes with them and practice breathing and clearing your thoughts. Talk your child through the process, encouraging them to feel how each part of their body is relaxing.
6. Eye Yoga
Eye yoga is especially beneficial for children on the spectrum who have frequent headaches. Relaxing their eyes helps your child feel less bombarded with sensory overload and gives them a break visually, which aids in compartmentalizing incoming stimuli.
Let your child rub their palms together to warm them up, and have them place their hands over their eyes. Have them remain still and ask them to only focus on the black color before them.
7. Sensory Pauses
Children with autism often experience sensory input on a different scale than those who are not on the spectrum. They may feel overwhelmed by all the information coming their way, which may be a typical day for someone else. Helping your child pause and concentrate on one stimulus can give them and their senses time to reflect, rebuild and recalibrate.
Incorporate a calm and fun space where your child can stimulate their motor skills with clay, squeeze balls and coloring books. When the weather permits, go outdoors with them to the park or your yard and encourage them to do heavy work like climbing, jumping and pulling.
Anxiety Reducing Therapy for Children
Along with mindfulness techniques, pediatric therapy can help reduce anxiety in children with autism. It uses science-backed treatment strategies and includes:
- Speech therapy: If your child experiences stuttering, swallowing or another speech and mouth-related challenge, a language pathologist may relieve anxiety-induced tension.
- Physical therapy: A child with autism may have challenges in their mobility or coordination. Anxious feelings and stress on their muscles can often be the cause of physical challenges. Physical therapy gives your child the chance to improve these symptoms.
- Occupational therapy: Anxiety can cause physical and emotional tension in children on the spectrum, which may affect their motor functions and reasoning abilities. Occupational therapy could help your child manage the everyday demands of school and home. Your child may learn how to perform their daily living tasks independently.
- Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy: Our ABA therapy is play-based, which benefits children with autism who feel overwhelmed by sensory overload. By using play as a therapeutic mechanism, ABA therapy may help your child’s social engagement skills.
Kid’s SPOT Is Your Trusted Partner in Pediatric Therapy Services
Mindfulness techniques are a powerful tool to help bring your child to a state of peace when surrounded by messages coming their way. You can use these techniques whenever needed. Practicing them with your child can benefit your relationship with them, too.
Kid’s SPOT is a leading ABA therapy provider for children with autism and developmental delays. Our comprehensive pediatric therapy services also treat children with speech, physical, and other behavioral obstacles. Review our treatment options and let us help you decide which is best for your child. Contact us through our online form today to learn more.