Anxiety is a major ‘side effect’ of the sensory and other problems. Although not always obvious it is evident in:

* Obsessions/compulsions.  

These are integral to ASD and can include the repetitive (stereotyped) behaviours such as flicking a bit of string repetitively or lining toys up in rows and also the child's preoccupation with a particular subject so that he talks about one topic repetitively, or collects particular toys/items like dinosaurs. These are similar in effect to a young child’s security blanket and, by giving him something to focus all his attention on, help keep his anxiety at bay.

* A dislike of change.  This makes routine extremely important, providing some constants in a perplexing world.  Reactions to change are very individual. Thus one child will become distressed by apparently small things, such as an item which is out of a place while ignoring larger changes whilst for another the converse is true.

* Withdrawal – as he tries to protect himself by ignoring or excluding anything which might provoke anxiety.


Compulsions become negative when they 'take over' and interfere with the person's life - for example if he has to do something a set number of times before he is able to move on to another task.

Obsessions  Unless they are antisocial obsessions can be positive allowing the child/adult to escape into their own world when they find things overwhelming.

You can also use them:

* To share and connect with the child/adult 

* As a reward/motivation.

*  To encourage the person to learn more about a particular subject.


Other Effects

Anxiety will also limit his social interaction and the development of social skills.

It can also interfere with his ability to concentrate, learn and/or remember things. He may also appear to lack curiosity simply because he is frightened of attempting anything new and this will inhibit his ability to explore and play. Children who do show curiosity often tend to direct it towards objects rather than people. 


Many such children - regardless of age or ability – also suffer from ‘panic attacks’. These often result from acute anxiety, although they can also be caused by sensory or emotional overload or simply by too much direct attention. They can lead to any one of the following reactions:

*  He may become ‘frozen with fear’ and be totally unable to do anything (even something nice like eating a cake).

*  Fight or flight - he may suddenly: ‘attack’ himself or another person.

*  He may suddenly run away from a situation.


Prolonged stress – as happens when you live with anxiety day in and day out – can also have physical effects.  Thus it can:

* interferes with the digestive process and can cause severe stomach pains during or after meals.

* weakens the immune system

* leads to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

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