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Autism and anxiety

unhappy small child sitting at table with worrying mother
  • Date published:

  • Author: alexmantle

Autistic children and young people can have differences in thinking, processing, problem-solving and interacting compared to many of their peers.

These differences may mean they’re more prone to feelings of stress and anxiety throughout day-to-day life.

In fact, nearly half of all autistic children are affected by anxiety disorders.

Some common emotional impacts of autism include:

  • Frustration due to having difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions or making and maintaining friendships at school.
  • Anxiety following social situations might be common. Preferring to do things in a certain way can also lead to anxiety and stress when unexpected events occur or if a routine isn’t followed.
  • Stress might also follow a sensory overload if a child is more sensitive to sensory information (such as sights and smells) and feels overwhelmed.

Spotting the signs of stress and anxiety in autistic children

Different children are likely to express anxiety in different ways, but here are some common behavioural signs that an autistic child is becoming anxious or stressed:

Managing anxiety in autistic children

Autistic children may benefit from seeing a GP to manage symptoms of their anxiety. Although seeing or speaking to a health professional might be a stressful occasion for them, a GP will be able to discuss treatments such as talking therapies or even medication if appropriate.

You can try some methods at home too, such as practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques.

It’s also important to work closely with your child’s school to ensure that staff have an understanding of your child’s anxiety. They may be able to put processes in place to help reduce your child’s stress at school, such as by reducing sensory information in classrooms or creating a safe quiet space for children to go when they are anxious. You can contact your child’s teacher or school nurse for additional support in school.

If you’re finding behaviour difficult to manage, take a look at these support strategies for managing behaviour in autistic children.

Useful links

Health for Kids: Grownups – Autism: What you need to know – Anxiety and autism