As an autistic adult I suffer from anxiety if my routines are changed and it can manifest with physical symptoms.
Today I was planning for an appointment I had on my schedule for tomorrow. I arranged childcare and my travel route. I planned what to wear and what to dress the children in. I sorted out our fares and looked online at Google Maps to visually see where I was going so I was mentally prepared.
I decided to ring up as I often do before any appointment to make sure it was going to happen and it had been cancelled without anyone notifying me.
I am now left feeling anxious as I have nothing planned to do tomorrow and I always have something planned to do. If I know I have nothing, then I plan something—a movie with the children cuddled up on the sofa with popcorn or a walk in the nearby woods.
But I have NOTHING planned. So the anxiety of my plans changing kicks in.
Stomach pain first then being stuck on the toilet with chronic diarrhea unable to move, meltdown imminent from the frustration of having my plans change and the lack of understanding shown on their part while knowing I have Aspergers.
Then there’s my sensory overload brought on by my heightened emotional state. Suddenly sounds seem louder, lights are brighter and voices pierce through me.
Irritated and feeling like I could climb out of my own skin, roaring in indignation, I storm out to lie down in a darkened room.
Then I need the toilet again.
Do Your Children Experience the Physical Symptoms of Anxiety?
I have noticed that many children have the same stomach upsets with anxiety. If your child has intermittent diarrhea around a particular event—either school or an activity—it may well be linked to anxiety. Vomiting can also be a symptom as can shaking, hoarding and desperately needing things to be the same, unchanging.
If your child has these physical symptoms and you have had all relevant health checks done by your doctor then it is most likely anxiety.
Ask your child if they are being bullied by describing what bullying is as they may not realise that they are bring mistreated by ‘friends’. See if anything has changed in their classroom or if a new child has started the class…or has another child left? New teacher starting? Do they have sufficient support and are sensory breaks in place?
All these things can impact greatly on your child mentally and physically.
Be a detective for your child’s triggers. Use visual supports or sand timers to ease unpredictable changes. And understand that a change that seems minor to you, like an extra stop while you are out shopping, can be monumental to your child and should be planned for in advance.