Anxiety-related symptoms are frequent concerns in children, adolescents and adults with Aspergers and HFA, which may be treatable with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Anxiety is commonly found in high functioning individuals on the spectrum in particular because they have an increased awareness of their own social difficulties. This cognitive awareness may intensify their anxiety toward social interaction and promote isolation.
Recent numbers found that 11-84% of children on the autism spectrum experience impairing anxiety, while only 4.7% of all children aged 3-17 years have experienced anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps individuals recognize how thoughts and feelings influence behavior and cope with these challenges.
CBT is used to treat a wide range of issues, in addition to anxiety, including:
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) can make participation in life activities—what occupational therapists refer to as occupations—very difficult. Luckily, there are options and strategies to help improve sensory processing and make life much smoother and more enjoyable.
Sensory-based occupational therapy (OT), may look like play to adults, but to the child it is their work and necessary for improving overall abilities to process sensory information more appropriately. Jumping, swinging, climbing and playing in multisensory mediums—such as shaving cream, beans, rice, or play dough—all have a place in their growth and the development of sensory processing abilities.
While the word “punish” often conjures up bad thoughts for parents and professionals, punishment and reinforcement are key when looking at behavior change through ABA. Punishment in ABA decreases the chances that a particular behavior will occur again, as opposed to reinforcement which increases the likelihood of behavior.
Let’s look at the behavior analytic definitions of punishment specifically:
- Positive punishers may occur naturally in one’s environment. A child pets a strange dog and gets bit on the finger causing pain. After this occurs, the child does not pet strange dogs. That is considered a positive punisher because the bite/pain (presented stimulus) decreased petting strange dogs (outcome).
- A parent can use positive punishment as well: siblings are fighting; mom yells “stop it right now!” and the kid’s reaction is to end the fighting. Mom provides the stimulus of yelling, which decreases future occurrence of fighting.
- A negative punisher would be when the removal of a toy ends the fighting between two children. This removal decreases chance of it happening in future.
- “Time out” is also considered a negative punishment. When used correctly, it removes all reinforcement from the immediate environment resulting in a decrease in future occurrence of the punished behavior.
How do we decrease neurological stress? The following is an excerpt from my recent book titled “Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers: Practical Ideas for Students with ASDs and Other Special Educational Needs”
A research team funded by the National Institutes of Health found that, in people with autism, brain areas normally associated with visual tasks also appear to be active during language-related tasks. This provides evidence to explain a bias towards visual thinking that is common in those with autism.
Try this little activity: the following statement is about neurological processing. “Visual’s a strength, auditory ain’t.” As you say this, make goggles with your hands to cover your eyes. Then try saying it again while cupping your hands to make ear muffs over your ears. This little exercise will help your brain to remember a key statement about the preference for those with ASD for visual versus auditory learning. This understanding is the first step for taking a different course of action when responding to the behavior of those struggling with neurological stress.