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7 Strategies for Reducing Anxiety in Kids with Autism

A guest post by Ilana Danneman a physical therapist and product developer at FunandFunction.com. Ilana works with children and adults, and loves developing solutions to support special needs. She specializes in sensory motor tools and muscle re-education.

We’ve all experienced the sensation or know someone who faces bouts of anxiety. It might show up as nervousness or a full-blown meltdown. For children and adults on the autism spectrum, anxiety can exacerbate the stress of day-to-day living.

Fortunately, there are strategies and tools to help keep the monster at bay.

1. Be a Detective. This goes without saying, but needs to be said: Find the trigger and get to know it. What sets off the bout of anxiety? Is it a disruption in the schedule? Too much time at a party? Noise? Too many people? Feeling out of control? Look and listen. If you can keep calm, you can start to notice a pattern and work to avoid the situation.

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2. Be Prepared. If a situation is unavoidable and you have to head into it (that noisy family gathering, for example), set yourself up for success. For example, bring noise cancelling earmuffs, a special snack, a sensory survival kit  or map out a quiet spot to retreat in the home.

3. Heavy Work and Play. Movement almost always helps. And, heavy movement helps even more. Be sure your anxious individual is getting plenty of exercise and helping with some of the heavy housework. Even a non-verbal child can dump laundry out or drag a trash can. Don’t forget about swings for heavy vestibular input, and putty or weighted sand to work the hands.

4. Routines Matter. Do your best to stick to a routine, but change it up when you have the time and patience to do so. Implement the change with love, care and support so your child can learn that he can survive change.  Choose a time that works for you too, not when you’re stressed or about to travel.

5. Sensory Spa. Do you have a regular spot for sensory integration and play? It can be a corner, closet, or a sensory room. Having a sensory room has been shown to encourage calm, orientation and focus. Of course, one person may crave a massage and another prefers a walk in the woods. Figure out what calms and appeases the person’s anxiety.

6. Try A Scent.  If you’re open to alternative treatments, try complementary therapies that can help regulate the nervous system, such as aromatherapy or homeopathy.  Each person responds differently so it may take some time and experimentation.

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7. Get support.  Lean on friends for insights and support, and consider professional intervention to help the family learn to manage anxiety. Often it just takes practice, patience and love. However cognitive behavioral therapy and other techniques can be helpful too.

Keep in mind that not treating anxiety can impact the entire family so, if possible, take the first steps today.

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 “As a an itinerant physical therapist I am always looking to solve a problem and I need durable, quick easy to use solutions. Items need to be bright, functional and engage my kids to move!”

Ilana Danneman, Product Development Director @ FunandFunction.com

fun and function logoFunandFunction.com offers therapist designed, kid-friendly sensory tools and toys. Their toys, clothing, and therapy tools are lovingly designed to build each child’s skills and self-esteem.


AngelSense is committed to creating a safer world for children with special needs. We designed the AngelSense GPS tracking solution to give parents the peace of mind that their child is safe at all times.

AngelSense is committed to creating a safer world for children with special needs. We designed the AngelSense GPS tracking solution to give parents the peace of mind that their child is safe at all times.

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