FIVE WAYS TO MAKE THE ENVIRONMENT LESS STRESSFUL FOR PEOPLE WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER

Strategies Caregivers Can Put in Place to Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Emotions are made up of physical, physiological, and cognitive responses. Emotional regulation is the ability to modulate the intensity and timing of both positive and negative emotions to fit a given situation. People with autism spectrum disorder may struggle with emotional regulation, and this is exacerbated by stress and anxiety. They may display intense emotional responses to stressful events and have difficulty recovering once a stressor ends. There are many strategies caregivers can put in place to help reduce stress and anxiety. Here are five to get started. Stay tuned, as there’s more to come in future blog posts!

  1. Ensure that your child has a means to communicate basic wants or needs that are important to him or her. Examples include asking for a break, help, attention, time in a quieter area, or for access to preferred items and activities. It is best to use the simplest and most efficient means of communication for this purpose in order to reduce frustration. Communicating Basic Needs
  2. Offer choices as much as possible. For example, allow your child to choose between two shirts to wear to school, to decide whether to complete a task now or later, or to help plan the dinner menu for the week.Offering Choices
  3. Increase the predictability of the environment through the use of written or picture schedules and consistent routines.Consistent Routines
  4. Let your child know how much work needs to be done before a task is complete. A countdown strip can be used for this purpose.Task Completion
  5. Prepare your child for novel events through use of social stories, videos, or pictures of what will be happening. This is often referred to as “priming.”Priming for EventsClassroom

Written by Johanna Lantz, Ph.D., BCBA, Chief of Psychology at The Center for Discovery®. 

For more information about supporting our Psychology Department, please contact Richard Humleker, Vice President of Development, at rhumleker@tcfd.org.

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