Hi I am Julie Short and welcome to part three in the social competence strategies for family. In this webcast we will discuss evidence-based strategies and/or promising practices that have been effective for use with individuals with autism spectrum disorder focusing on reducing your child/family member’s anxiety. My cousin gets so anxious about meeting new people. When they approach her, she wrings her hands and starts to hurt herself. How can I help reduce her anxiety so she can participate in social activities?
Let’s take a look at some strategies that can help your child/family member reduce anxiety so he/she can participate in social activities.
So how can we support those with ASD to lessen some of the anxiety that they may experience? We can teach various relaxation strategies. Some relaxation strategies include creating an anxiety hierarchy, which puts their anxious situations into an order from least anxious to most anxious. Teaching counting, deep breathing, and yoga techniques are some calming activities that can also be helpful.
The anxiety hierarchy is a tool developed as part of behavioral therapy. It can also be a helpful visual tool for families. First you would develop the list of items that make the individual feel anxious using a scale from least anxious to most anxious. Then you decide how the person could learn about supports to help them move through each trigger. For instance, if going to a concert in the park is a trigger, decide if talking about it to come up with solutions might be the way to go, or maybe role playing what happens at the concert and thinking up with supports to relieve the anxiety is better for the individual. Or maybe someone does better with pictures rather than just words, so making a picture listing including pictures of possible solutions would be the ticket. Anxiety hierarchies are used before a situation, rather than when the person is already anxious. The list can be helpful for caregivers so they know when panic may set in and they can have the supports ready to go.
This is an example of an anxiety hierarchy. It lists the triggers from least anxious to most anxious. This anxiety hierarchy is an example that could be developed to use in the home for when guests may be visiting. A caregiver and the individual would have created this list, and then start working from the bottom up. Typically, the bottom trigger is one that the person may have some coping skills for already, so starting with success is important. So receiving positive reinforcement for talking with parents and talking with siblings can help build a foundation for learning to lessen anxiety when talking with friends. You continue working through the levels and develop supports for each trigger.
Another relaxation strategy is yoga. Yoga is supposed to unite your body, mind, and spirit by teaching breath control and movement. Practicing yoga can help reduce anxiety, increase knowing how to move your body, and how to calm your insides. A neat thing about yoga is that you can practice parts of it without drawing attention to yourself when you need to calm down.
Some ways to teach yoga to your family member with ASD include taking photos of them doing poses so they can practice with them, taking a yoga class, or using a yoga book or DVD to learn some poses and routines. There are some resources listed on this slide.
You can reduce your child/family member’s anxiety through a relaxed body routine. These are the steps you could use but each of these steps would need to be taught to your child/family member during a time when they’re more calm. You might also want to use visuals to support this strategy. This was outlined in the book When My Autism Gets Too Big by Kari Dunn Buron.
As we’ve mentioned before, visual supports can help prepare individuals for social situations but they can also help an individual understand a social situation and help reduce anxiety. These remain consistent and stays in place when verbal words are over.
This slide shows an example of a visual support for anxiety. This visual support uses pictures and text in order to help the child relax. Each step of this sequence would need to be taught, practiced, and reinforced for it to become a habit an individual can remember in a time of anxiety.
These are various resources for developing and using visual supports in a wide variety of environments including the school, home, and community environments. Here are some books to help you with visual supports. If you live in Ohio, these books are available through the OCALI lending library at no cost. Click on the Lending Library button at www.ocali.org for more information. There is also an AIM module on visual supports.
For those students who have special interests, power cards are a great way to target a specific behavior. By using their special interest, the student is motivated to use the strategy presented in the scenario on a power card. It is a positive strategy that is often entertaining and very simple to develop.
This is an example of a power card that could be used to help a child calm down when anxious or upset. This individual’s interest is Harry Potter and Harry Potter reminds him or her to remain calm.
These are various resources for developing and using power cards with individuals with autism.
Displaying visual representations is really beneficial for individuals with ASD. One example is the Incredible 5-Point Scale. This helps individuals understand and control their emotional reactions to everyday events. It is a scale that breaks down a given behavior and with the individual's active participation, you can develop a unique scale that identifies the problem, and just as important, suggests alternative, positive behaviors at each level of the scale.
This scale is an example of what may be developed to help individuals control their volume in different situations across environments including in their home and out in the community. On this scale:
This scale can be used for children or modified for older individuals. This scale is also an example of one that only uses numbers and text and does not include pictures.
These are various resources including books, websites, and an autism internet module that can be used to help parents develop and utilize the incredible 5 point scale with individuals with autism.
Thank you watching part third of social competence strategies for families please be sure to watch the other videos in this series.