Helping a Special Needs Child Cope with Anxiety

Therapies and Resources for Children with Autism & Families

A few weeks ago, we received a note from a parent whose son was preparing to attend a horse camp at Fieldstone Farm. The parent noted how our therapists were able to help her son work through his anxiety to reach a point of being comfortable with riding and interacting with horses. She noted once her son was able to get on the horse, he loved the activity. But, it was not possible without the therapists at Peak Potential Therapy using a variety of techniques to help her son work through his anxiety.

Children with special needs often struggle with stress and anxiety. Anxiety may keep your child from joining in with other children who are playing, stop him or her from trying a new activity, or even prevent him or her from being willing to taste a new food. At times, this struggle to cope with anxiety may feel like an enormous roadblock for your child and your family. Fortunately there are ways that you can help your child deal with anxiety and stress. These are just a few of the strategies we use at Peak Potential Therapy:

  • Visual Supports: Many children with special needs are very strong visual learners. Communicating a process, such as getting on and riding a horse, or caring for a horse, can be done with visual supports, such as a visual schedule or a custom My Social Stories book.
  • Peer Modeling: Using this technique, a child who is struggling with anxiety and hesitating to participate in an activity can watch a peer participate and model the appropriate behaviors.
  • Modeling Self Talk: The therapist working with a child can use self talk to describe each step he or she is taking. For example, if the therapist is working with a child to overcome anxiety to ride a horse, she may describe approaching the horse, feeding the horse an apple or petting the horse’s nose, and so on.
  • Transitions: This is a classic area of struggle for children on the Autism spectrum. It could be as simple as changing activities, like going from reading books to playing with blocks, or a change in the child’s schedule. Or, it could be a huge ordeal to change classrooms and get a new teacher from year to year. Our therapists help children learn how to handle these types of transitions.
  • Positive Verbal Support: Consistent praise can be a very powerful motivator in helping a child work through anxiety and reach a goal. Verbal praise is more effective when coming from an individual that a child has built a relationship with.
  • Time: While one child may need just one visit to a horse farm to feel ready to ride a horse, another child may need a dozen visits. Every child is unique.

If your child is struggling with anxiety, contact our team today to learn more about the available therapies and services offered at Peak Potential Therapy.