Hi, I have a 14 year old son with ASD and since before Christmas his anxiety levels have been really high, but this week things have got a lot worse...he can’t go in any lessons at school and his whole personality has changed.
The one thing that scares me is his eyes, at times they shake from side to side though anxiety I think but he is snapping and just really isn’t his happy smiling self.
would anyone have any advice for me to help him?
Do you know if something is going on? Problems with a teacher, some girls thing (either for himself or for a friend who may have lost interest in him as a result), problems with a friend...? Guess if you knew what brought it on it would be easier for you to see a way of helping him beyond just being there for him and making home a safe place. Not saying that there is necessarily anything specific that brought it on, it could just be puberty and the confusion that comes with it, but it seems like things changed quite suddenly, so it's probably worth investigating.
I agree, the keynote working out why his anxiety has peaked so much. I don't know how severe his ASD is which will have a bearing on things. It could be related to the general disruption of his routine over Christmas, a change at school, different classrooms, teachers, a new kid he doesn't like. It could just be general teenage angst playing out in his own way.
Ask him if you can, see if you can get him enjoying his favourite things and if that helps reset him back to normal, he might just need a bit of time. It's difficult but for many people, especially people with ASD early teens aren't the most happy times as it's part of becoming who and what we are whilst changes happen.
My anxiety levels and moods are just beginning to stabslise since just before Christmas. The build up to Christmas, the whole Christmas period and then what feels like a sudden shift back to 'normality' were too much for me and I barely go out of the house just now. So it's not like I even got into Christmas in a big way but it sent my moods and emotions all over the place and even with tons and tons of time to process it all etc, it still took me a while. I still haven't opened most of my Christmas cards, I've got well over 20 to open still.
How long before Christmas did the anxiety levels rise? The change back to normal felt particularly brutal to me this year and I nearly had a heart attack when I heard my letter box rattle and was horrified to find that I had indeed had a letter delivered - things really were back to 'normal'. This was very hard for me.
Thank you for replying and sharing with me how your Christmas was this year, it has really helped. My sons anxiety started about 3 weeks before Christmas.
I think my higher levels of anxiety started to become noticeable around that time. I realised this year, after the event, that one of the difficulties is that I really do like Christmas, so not being able to indulge in it and enjoy it, in the way I would want to, also causes considerable stress and adds even more to the process. I also finally accept, or at least I'm very much coming to accept. That there is absolutely nothing I can do about this. My level of anxiety may present itself differently each year. Depending on the situation at that time. But regardless of how the anxiety shows itself. The same level of anxiety that was with me as a child, is with me just as much and in the same way now as it was then. This tells me that no matter what I do to try and 'cope' with or 'manage' this. Nothing is going to change it. If I don't want my world to be turned upside down, which often goes on for months after Christmas and at least a couple of months before. Although it might only show as it gets closer to the day. But if I don't want my life to be continually disrupted for me every year, I've got to take a different approach. I've noticed that the higher my stress levels, the higher everything else, the avoidance, obsessions, OCD, ADHD, distractions etc etc. Which of course adds to the overall confusion and an even more desperate attempt to hold it all together.
For me. The answer is to give myself time to understand where I'm at in life. I process things at a different rate to nt's and it's like all my life, it's been one thing after another and I haven't had chance to process what happened 50 years ago, let alone what someone just said to me. I think what I'm trying to say is. My pace of life may always be different to yours, but not necessarily. But I need time and space to work out, what my pace is. And for most of my life, I've been pushed along at somebody else's pace and being judged and ridiculed if I tried to go at my own. And it's not something you can simply work out by having a few sessions with a therapist or something. It's something that we can only work out when we are in a loving, kind, safe, non judgemental and supportive environment with the support of people who understand us, respect us, accept us and reassure us that it's ok to go at our own pace. The world won't stop and life won't be ruined if we go at our own pace and do things in a way that causes less stress and confusion to us and helps us to enjoy our lives, like we all have a right to do. Even if that means our day to day life looks different to other people's. We don't have to stay within the 'rules' set out for nt's and that is recorded in law. Of course that comes with a certain level of responsibility but as autistic children, we have to be taught all of that in a way that we understand and at a pace that enables us to really process and make sense of it all and how it fits in with our understanding of the world etc. Expecting autistic people to be able to cope with Christmas or school or work in the same way as nt's, is just asking for trouble. Why do our lives have to look like yours?
I'm 50 now, having lived a successful life as a fake nt, although I never did quite keep up with things. And the accumulative effect of all that, has been me in the position of currently being unable to work or even feed myself everyday.
This is not a bad thing. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I'm going through a period of detoxification. I didn't fully realise this until recently. I have no regrets about anything. Life is what it is, but I do know that for me to be able to move forward in my life and create a life which I actually enjoy, I need time and space to work that out with the help and support of my support worker and you guys on here.
I guess what I'm saying, is, he might need some readjustments made to his life, to enable him to process changes etc in his own way and in his own time, with support to help prevent him from becoming too isolated, not moving forward etc. Help to help him understand, as best he can as an aspie, his feelings and emotions and his way of thinking. To help him understand why certain things are expected of him in life and what his part is in all of that. If he's got high anxiety levels, they're high for a reason, and he probably doesn't understand why. I didn't at that age. But maybe the focus could not be on not lessening the anxiety, but building an environment in which he feels safe, supported, loved, with the understanding that this is what he needs right now. When he feels safe, with no added pressures and changes etc, he might be able to tell you what he finds most difficult so you can find ways around it. The goal isn't to lessen the anxiety but to find out what would help him feel safe in the world, happy, productive, needed, valued, loved, able to express himself in a way that doesn't harm him or anybody else.
Again, I'm just talking off the top of my head and of course I can only talk from my experience, I just know that it can sometimes help to hear about someone else's experience or a different perspective.
I'd go along with what the others have said. I just wanted to add that I work at a day centre for highly-autistic adults. Since the end of the Christmas break, we've had far more challenging behaviour incidents than usual. It's fairly routine there at this time of year, it seems. Several reasons for it. Obviously, the huge build-up to Christmas, and the associated anxiety and excitement. Then, afterwards, the 'coming down'. Another factor is that now the schools are back, the journeys are longer for those who are driven in - and the traffic hold-ups are worse. All of these things take a lot of adjusting to for our service users. Routines get thrown out of whack, etc.
None of this probably applies to your son, but there may be a seasonal affect associated with his anxieties. As a kid, I used to sometimes get almost physically sick with anxiety at the return to school after the Christmas holidays.
Thank you for sharing how you deal with your anxieties. Giving him more time to process in all aspects is great advice and that is something I will definitely do....he feels safe a happy at home so I hope he will tell me what is wrong when he is ready.
There is an information page here on the NAS site about anxiety (it's about anxiety in autistic adults, but most of the information could be applied to a 14 year old). There's information on the causes of anxiety, different ways in which it can be managed, and other online resources. You can find the page here: www.autism.org.uk/about/behaviour/anxiety.aspx
Hope you can find something helpful here,
Best wishes,Ross - mod
Thank you, I’ll have a look.
Hi ..I have no advice I'm afraid but wanted to share that I too am going through exactly the same thing with my 13 year old daughter (she will be 14 in April). Since having to return to school after Christmas she too has been struggling with severe anxiety to the point that she cannot face school. I am currently waiting for counselling for her as I am at my wits end what to do. The school are aware but I feel she is missing so much of her education and all our stress levels are sky high. She has been given some medication for her anxiety but this does not get to the root of the problem.