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How Does Autism Affect Mental Health In Children?

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According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, children with autism can also develop mental health conditions such as Anxiety Disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Depression. In fact, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are at a higher risk of some mental health conditions. At Solstice Behavioral Health & Consulting, we have seen that consistent ABA therapy participation can help children communicate their needs and process their thoughts and behaviors which helps manage ASD as well as other co-occurring conditions.

Autism In Children and ADHD

You may have heard that there are similarities when it comes to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: With either, children may experience difficulty communicating, staying focused, or socializing. In ASD, language skills, socialization, behavior, and learning ability are affected in children due to related developmental disorders. In ADHD, a child’s ability to think before they act, stay still, and how well a child can concentrate is affected. Though there are distinct differences between the two conditions, some children have both ASD and ADHD. While studies have shown these two conditions often coexist, researchers are not yet sure why this is the case. What is important is that a child that has either ASD or ADHD or both conditions, can get the proper treatment and guidance to thrive.

Autism In Children and Anxiety

Though all children may have to cope with worry and fear as they learn to navigate through life, children with ASD may be more vulnerable to potential stressors than children without ASD. When it comes to unfamiliar social situations or changes to their routines, children with ASD may experience anxiety.

Though children with autism may feel overwhelmed or stressed, they may not be able to communicate this to you. You can be mindful of signs of anxiety in your child so that you can ease their concerns and soothe them. Potential signs of anxiety in children with ASD include: trouble sleeping, avoiding social situations, or having more outbursts or meltdowns. Furthermore, you may even notice an anxious child with ASD stimming, participating more than usual in rituals or obsessive behavior, or even injuring themselves.

However, identifying what it is that is creating your child’s anxiety is a significant first step. Consider new beginnings or transitions, unfamiliar social situations, changes in routine or environment, or stimuli that may be overwhelming to sensory sensitivities. If possible, keep track using a list so that you have a reference, and so you can find ways to help your child cope with these situations in a safe environment.

Autism In Children and Depression

As children with ASD have difficulty with social situations, they may experience isolation. As children with autism engage in repetitive thoughts and behaviors, they may find that they dwell on negative thoughts or incidences. For this reason, children with autism may also experience depression. This is possible especially due to the pressures that come with entering your teenage years, feeling increased social and academic pressure, trying to fit in and make friends, and even being aware that you may be “different.” Signs a child is struggling with depression can include: increased irritability, lack of interest in things that brought them joy, decreased motivation, sleep and eating issues, and even self-harm.

When it comes to mental health concerns in children with autism, early intervention is crucial. The earlier a child with ASD is diagnosed and receives proper treatment and support, the sooner a child has the tools to identify and communicate and cope with their emotions. With more than 20 years of providing support and training for families, Solstice Behavioral Health and Consulting in Shelton, Connecticut strives to become a bedrock for autism awareness and education. Solstice has created multiple programs and activities to help children and communities enhance their skills and develop their support networks. Contact our office to see how we can help you and your family move forward together.

We Believe That Early Diagnosis & Intervention Is Key.