Autism Training & Support
Relaxation and the Autistic Child
Autism is a complex disorder. Children with autism are in a constant state of anxiety due to impaired understanding of relationships and the social expectations of everyday life. This stress can trigger states of anxiety and significant upset. When a child anxious or upset, they can’t ‘think straight’.
It is important therefore that these children be specifically taught how to relax. If they just don’t know how ‘it feels’ to feel calm and relaxed how can they ‘calm down when told to do so?’
I have been working with children for thirty years and teaching relaxation for the past eleven. I have found that learning to relax provides them with strategies to help themselves in times of stress and anxiety.
Teaching your child (and yourself) to relax brings many benefits.
Relaxation:- combats fatigue and anxiety.
lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
increases ability to think clearly
improves energy levels, sleep, creative ability and more.
teaches strategies for calming in times of upset
improves self esteem and feelings of wellbeing.
This is a two way process and is therefore an opportunity for ‘grown ups’ to enjoy a small space in their busy day to share the experience. After all a calm mummy or daddy makes for a more relaxed child – so enjoy.
1. Ensure that you are calm yourself. Plan what you will do. You need to create rules/guidelines that you can always follow. For example - no talking, quiet whispers only, good breathing – demonstrate slow gentle breathing. Put this into a visual aid and have in displayed.
2. You need to be clear and explicit as to what will happen, where, for how long and what ‘good relaxing’ looks like. For example ‘good relaxing means you lie still, good relaxing means no talking for ……. minutes.’ Do not use ‘don’t do this or that’, always say what you do want – it’s positive.
3. Prepare an area. You will need a special place that has little to stimulate the brain. No books, radio, TV etc. All children are different and only those closest will know how to create that space. It could be the child’s bedroom or parents’ bedroom, it could be a blanket spread over chairs. The child needs to be comfortable and lying down. I use large pillows and soft fleece blankets. The child can participate and help in setting up the session. This gives them more ownership in the whole experience. T
4. Try and do your structured relaxation consistently – same time, same ‘props’ – rugs, cushions, music, lavender oil – this informs the child that it is ‘relaxation time’. Don’t forget that once a child knows how to relax, they may request relaxation at any time – if it is possible allow this as it might mean you avoid an ‘upset’. You can even suggest relaxation if you feel the child is getting anxious/upset.
5. Use gentle music if the child will tolerate sound. It cuts out other noise and gives the child