Helping Teens On The Spectrum With Anxiety

Home anxiety Helping Teens On The Spectrum With Anxiety

Due to the difficulties socializing for those on the spectrum (ASD), having ASD and anxiety are often two co-occurring issues. Regarding all teens, social anxiety is common as they want to fit in with their peers, but this anxiety is amplified when being on the spectrum.By learning about how these issues function together and how to tactfully intervene, you can help your teen lead a fulfilling life as a young adult. 

How these issues function together

There are disconnections between ASD and anxiety. According to one article , “as opposed to most other psychiatric disorders of childhood, there is no cure for autism and related conditions and the prognosis is often poor,” hence, ASD is a genetic condition. On the other hand, anxiety is a little more environmental-based as it can develop under certain circumstances; nevertheless, some people (such as those with ASD) are more susceptible to develop it. 

But there are also connections between ASD and anxiety. Following a review of the scientific literature on social competence deficits in autism, “treatment approaches for higher functioning individuals with ASD” and approaches for the treatment of anxiety are similar. Simple anxiety treatments may include self-care (relaxation techniques and stress management), therapy (cognitive behavioral and psychotherapy). ASD intervention treatments are listed within the section below. 

There is further evidence from a study where participants were 15 [people] with high-functioning autism, 15 with a specific learning impairment, and 15 typically developing children between the ages of 8 and 12 years. And on a broad anxiety measure (self-report), the high-functioning autism group scored significantly higher on total anxiety than the specific learning impairment group and the typically developing group. Concerning specifically social anxiety, the same study supports that deficits in social functioning can significantly affect social interactions and interfere with the ability to establish lasting and meaningful friendships, leading to rejection and isolation, which may also contribute to the development of anxiety and depression.

How to tactfully intervene

Drawn from the literature in the general pediatric population, a set of specific recommendations was compiled as part of the intervention program for parents, as they work with their [teens] to face fears.

1) Encourage and reward the [teen] for [their] effort and engagement in brave behaviors

2) Ignore excessive displays of anxiety

3) Distinguish between realistic and unrealistic fears so that an appropriate treatment direction can be established 

4) Convey confidence in the child’s ability to handle [their] worry/anxiety

5) Model courageous behaviors

6) Work together with spouse/partner to develop a plan for facing fears

7) Share coping skills and create controlled fear-facing scenarios with other professionals

But what do you do if these recommendations are not enough help?

New Focus Academy can help. New Focus Academy gives all teens the chance to lead fulfilling lives; the residential treatment center helps teens on the spectrum with anxiety and other social challenges find success.  For more information call (435) 383-4369