Treating Anxiety in Children with Asperger’s
One of the many challenges that a child with Asperger’s may face is dealing with extreme anxiety. It can make life especially difficult for children because being a kid involves so many new experiences — going to school, making new friends and visiting their houses, and playing new sports. While many children greet these experiences with excitement and anticipation, those with Asperger’s will, sadly, often become extremely anxious. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may provide a solution for children struggling with anxiety.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
CBT was originally developed to treat depression, but it has since been leveraged to combat many mental disorders, including those that involve anxiety. The basis of CBT — a general term that actually applies to a number of different therapies — is that our thoughts are the root of many mental problems, not external conditions. Therefore, if a child with Asperger’s can adjust the way they think about a certain issue that gives them anxiety, they can effectively turn off the anxiety they link to it.
Depending on the Asperger’s symptoms you wish to treat with CBT, all kinds of different methods are available. Let’s take a look at two of the more common options.
CBT Begins with Educating Your Child
Initially, many experts thought that people on the autism spectrum may not be able to benefit from CBT. Fortunately, studies have shown that, the majority of the time, this isn’t the case.
The first step of CBT would involve educating your child on their anxiety with the help of a counselor or therapist. This is also a great opportunity for the therapist to gain a better understanding of what anxiety involves for your child: what it feels like to them, which rituals they present with and, most importantly, what can be done to “interrupt” this domino effect so the problem is diminished.
Exposure Therapy Can Erode the Negative Association
Exposure therapy is a form of CBT that may involve some discomfort for your child, but it can also be extremely powerful when done as directed by a licensed professional. In short, it involves repeatedly exposing your child to the conditions they become anxious about. Most importantly, though, it requires that you gently point out to your son or daughter that their anxieties are unfounded.
For example, if they feel anxious in crowds, you could slowly introduce them to crowded areas, all the while proving that nothing bad happens when they’re around lots of people. Slowly—and when accompanied with further education—your child may no longer link the situation in question with feelings of anxiety.
If you’re curious about how CBT can help children with Asperger’s, give us a call at 503-981-5348. At Woodburn Pediatric, we understand how seriously you take your child’s anxiety and would love to give you a more in-depth explanation of how CBT can help.