Anxiety… How Does Your Child Cope?
Navigating the world can be chaotic and unpredictable. For individuals on the spectrum not being able to understand the unwritten rules of conduct, the perspectives of others, or the context of situations makes the world overwhelming, producing extraordinarily high anxiety.
Two Common Coping Mechanisms May Result:
1). Does your child seek concrete expectations or rules to provide boundaries as well as a mental map of how to act?
These children welcome rules and follow them rigidly as they make the world predictable for them. It is also important to them that others follow these rules as well so their world can be more predictable and does not collapse.
2.) Does your child fear following the lead of others and resist these boundaries as a result of the threat of uncertainty?
Opposition comes hand and hand with rules, and “NO” is their favorite word. Fear and avoidance are typical reactions as they feel a need to control everything and not allow themselves to be vulnerable by following the lead of someone else. Consequently, they will often make their own rules and strictly adhere to them, making these children the most oppositional.
Coping mechanisms are proportional to one’s level of neurologic organization.
Think of it as supply and demand. High demands require higher levels of organization. Lower demand requires lower levels of organization.
In turn, if organization is low, and demands are high it will activate a stress response. As the stress response increases it is not uncommon to see behavioral opposition for some, or the need to have an environment controlled for others.
Both coping styles are the byproduct of poor neurologic organization, how the brain receives and processes input. Living in a continuous neurologically stressed state is the basis of anxiety.
Reducing anxiety can occur in a three tier approach:
- Improve neurologic organization through movement
- Identify and address demands and overload
- Appreciate your child’s view of the world
- Those that are in need of controlling their environment are doing their best to reduce their perceived demands creating the balance and homeostasis that works best for them.
- Deviation from their perceived environmental “set up” will be opposed as it triggers higher levels of processing and cognitive resources to manage their world around them.
It is important to recognize the different ways that children on the spectrum deal with their fear or uncertainty. While some children desire clear, concrete rules to make the world more predictable, others are so anxious and in fight or flight that they need to keep their world in lock down to navigate day by day.
Join us on Facebook Live Wednesday May 17th at 10:30AM PST where I will unravel the neurologic basis behind these two common coping mechanism and what parents can do.