Anxiety in Neurodivergent Children: Common Signs 

Anxiety in neurodivergent children may manifest differently than in neurotypical children, but common signs may include: 

  • Withdrawal from social interactions or struggling in social situations due to anxiety 

  • A strong need for routine and predictability, with changes causing significant distress 

  • Sensory sensitivities that lead to meltdowns or shutdowns in overwhelming environments 

  • A fear of making mistakes or not meeting expectations that can drive perfectionistic tendencies 

  • Physical symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches 

Dispelling Myths about Anxiety in Neurodiverse Children 

There are several misconceptions surrounding anxiety in neurodiverse children, including: 

  • That they’re just being difficult. Anxiety in neurodiverse children is not a choice or a behavior problem but a genuine struggle that requires understanding and support. 

  • That they’re just shy. While some neurodivergent children may exhibit shyness, shyness typically goes away after a child adjusts to new situations and people. Anxiety, on the other hand, is more severe and causes fear or avoidance before, during, and after situations. 

  • That they’ll grow out of it. Anxiety is not something that children will necessarily outgrow on their own; early intervention and appropriate support are important for managing it effectively. 

  • That neurodivergent children don’t experience anxiety. Contrary to popular belief, neurodivergent children aren’t immune to anxiety and may be more vulnerable to it due to the unique challenges they face. 

A child and a caregiver attend their counseling session.

Supportive Strategies for Managing Anxiety in Neurodiverse Children 

Implementing supportive strategies can help neurodivergent children cope with anxiety and navigate their daily lives more effectively. Strategies might include: 

  • Visual supports: Providing children with visual schedules, social stories, and cue cards can provide structure and predictability, reducing anxiety levels. 

  • Sensory regulation: Incorporating sensory tools and techniques such as weighted blankets, fidget toys, or sensory breaks can help regulate sensory input and alleviate anxiety. 

  • Communication and validation: Encouraging open communication and validating the child's feelings can foster a sense of safety and security, reducing anxiety levels. 

  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Teaching relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or progressive muscle relaxation can help neurodivergent children manage anxiety in challenging situations. 

  • Collaboration with professionals: Working collaboratively with doctors, educators, therapists, and other professionals can ensure that the child receives comprehensive support tailored to their individual needs. 

Cortica offers comprehensive services to help children with anxiety. Through personalized medical care, counseling, ABA therapy, occupational therapy, and music therapy, Cortica’s services help to address emotional needs, reduce anxiety triggers, promote sensory regulation, and foster relaxation and emotional expression. This holistic approach supports children in managing anxiety and achieving overall well-being.