Home » Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) » HELP: My Autistic Child is Absolutely Terrified of Storms Now

HELP: My Autistic Child is Absolutely Terrified of Storms Now


How do you handle high anxiety of a child on the spectrum? My son is 12 years old and where we live there is a hurricane coming soon. Everyone is talking about it and he is terrified. He gets upset when it rains and he cries because he’s scared. With others he appears angry and asks the same questions over and over about the hurricane. He is obsessing about this storm! I assured him I would make sure he is safe and even told him we can drive away when the storm comes, but he is still upset. I just wanted to know if there are any other ways to help him.

— Mary

terrified-with-storms

I’m so glad you asked this question. Perseveration (repeating the same thing over and over) is a VERY common issue among the autism community. Often, children with autism perseverate on stressors as a way of coping with their overwhelming anxiety. It may be continuously talking about the stressor, researching the stressor, or even acting out the stressor. In your son’s case it sounds like asking people about the storm is his way of attempting to cope. Here are a few things I would suggest…

  • Validate his emotions. Put words to his emotions. Ask him how he feels or you can label it for him, “I can see that you feel scared,” “I know you’re afraid,” or “You seem very nervous.”

Special Offer

Don't miss out on our special offer.
Click here to find out more

  • Since you’ve already assured him you will protect him from the storm, limit reminding him to once per day. He will likely carry on and seek further reassurance, but you don’t want to reinforce this repetitive conversation. Tell him once, “Remember what I told you, we will drive away when the storm comes. You will be safe.” Or you can even have him repeat back to you what you’ve already told him. For example, “We talked about this yesterday. Do you remember what I told you? What will we do when the storm comes?” Once he recites back to you what the plan is you can confirm what he has said and then move on. No further conversation about it; not even telling him “We already talked about that,” or “Yes, you’re right. We will drive away.” Redirect all further discussion of the storm.
  • Give him an alternative way to cope such as a social story. You can simply write out a short story that details some information about the storm, what to do when it comes, how to feel when it comes, how to handle those feelings, etc. It may have pages such as: “Where we live there are lots of storms. Some hurricanes we have had are _____. When we have hurricanes the weather gets windy, rainy, and there is thunder. Thinking of the storm can be scary. It’s okay to feel scared. When I feel scared I can tell somebody, like my mom. My mom has told me that she will protect me from the hurricane. If the weather gets really bad we will drive away from the storm and come back once it’s over. This will keep me safe.” Remind him to read his story when he gets stuck on perseverating on the storm.

It can be difficult to soothe an overly-anxious child, but hopefully these tips help to reduce some of the obsessive worrying. Stay safe!

Learn more about Angelina and her blog, The Autism Onion, at www.theautismonion.com or www.facebook.com/theautismonion

 

This article was featured in Issue 41 – Issue 41 – Celebrating Family

Support Autism Parenting Magazine

We hope you enjoyed this article. In order to support us to create more helpful information like this, please consider purchasing a subscription to Autism Parenting Magazine.

Download our FREE guide on the best Autism Resources for Parents

Related Articles

Adapting Behavior Through Antecedent Interventions

Adapting Behavior Through Antecedent Interventions

Read More
Exploring the Controversy Around ABA Therapy

Exploring the Controversy Around ABA Therapy

Read More
ABA Therapy Near Me

ABA Therapy Near Me: Finding a Provider for Your Child

Read More
Why Parents Should Care About It and Organizations Should Aim for It

The Importance of Accreditation for Both Autism Parents and ABA Organizations

Read More

Benefits of ABA Therapy Training for Parents

Read More

What are The Main ABA Techniques and Adaptations?

Read More
What are the Principles of Applied Behavior Analysis?

What are the Principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

Read More
>

Autism Parenting Magazine