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Is It Anxiety?

c4591de7-1773-436f-b3c1-b0c33c00db80Anxiety can often be easily identified in typically developing children, however, things get significantly more complicated when a child has an Autism or Sensory Processing diagnosis. Signs of anxiety can be attributed to the child’s inability to regulate or co-regulate and often though speech and occupational therapies the anxiety disappears. But some children who no longer need speech or OT find that the anxiety remains. So how do you tell if your child has anxiety that should be addressed separately?

LEEP Forward’s social worker, Hannah Newman, took us through this tricky subject in the hopes that important issues don’t go unnoticed and untreated. She explains “It won’t apply to all children, but for those that do, it’s better to address the problems today rather than find them compounded in the future.”

There are a number of indicators for anxiety and it can be difficult because some signs can seem at odds with each other. Hannah explains “The most important thing to understand is that anxiety presents differently in each child. For example, some kids may move very fast when anxious, while others are stone stiff and unable to move. With anxiety, you may see any combination of these indicators.”

The list includes:

 Physical indicators

  • Difficulties waking up
  • Complains of nausea and/or headaches
  • Cries, clings
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Grinds teeth
  • Impulsivity
  • Physically unable to move

Environmental indicators

  • Difficulties with transitions
  • Uses less language in different environments and/or with different people (for example, he’s typically very talkative at home but teachers report he is incredibly quiet in class)
  • Withdraws from activities
  • Needs previewing of what’s coming next
  • Flees/hides from certain activities or situations 

Relational indicators

  • Difficulty creating relationships and meaningful attachments
  • Difficulty separating
  • Shuts down in anticipation of others behaviors
  • Defiance and oppositional behaviors
  • Impulsivity

Expressive indicators

  • Excessive concern over the safety of others
  • Hits or screams (when angry OR happy)
  • Asks lots of questions (especially ones they know the answer to)
  • Frequently asks to take breaks or go to the bathroom
  • Lacks ideas (often copies other kids)
  • Extreme shyness

If you think your child shows signs of anxiety and you’d like more information and/or a consult, don’t hesitate to reach out to Hannah. She’s an incredible resource who can help build a specific treatment plan that could include:

  • coping strategies
  • practicing co-regulation around the anxiety
  • previewing and practicing activities that may be intimidating in a group setting.

She can be reached at Hannah@Leepforward.com.

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