Here are twelve tools I do/have used and found indispensable in supporting my autistic/PDA child manage his anxiety. The first 8 can also be used to form a personal resources box to have at school. I was told about resources box by a SEN teacher who explained they had one individualised box for each child in her school. It meant all staff could access it and the familiar objects gave some reassurance and the new staff a starting point for connection with the child. All the items are easily available or some can be made, I think I got the majority of ours from Ebay.
1. Worry Box
– This was something suggested by a school counsellor and I must admit I was doubtful about it working. You can get them involved with decorating a shoe box or similar as they wish and cutting a slit in the top like a post box. When they have a worry they can write it down (or someone can write them for them) and they go into the box and disappear (you secretly empty it). Although my son never put a single worry into the box he said it helped him to know it was there if he did.
2. Anxiety fan
– Useful as they can carry it around and then go through the techniques one by one and it is within their control. It is a reminder of things they can do to help as when they are anxious and panicking they may not be able to remember anxiety reducing techniques they have been shown. You can buy these pre-made, blank or made to order. I got ours from https://theplaydoctors.co.uk/
3. I’m OK/Not Ok wrist band
– Used this more than anything and he loved it so much he wore the words off it! The child simply turn it over on their wrist from green to red if they are feeling stressed so the people around know without them having to say he was feeling anxious or needed help.
4. Character stress doll
– My son has Sheldon from The Big Bang but choose on that reflects your child’s interest. I found this a great multi-purpose aid, he can fiddle with it or it can act as a indirect form of communication. I say what would Sheldon do/say think for example and it helps with getting the child to open up and work out a collaborative approach to problem solving because you can’t collaborate if you don’t know what the problem is!
5. Feelings book
– The child can write or draw to express feelings good or bad without judgement or parental involvement it can be secret or as we have it available to look through and talk about depending on which the child prefers. We just use a scrapbook which he had decorated.
6. A cuddly toy.
=My son has scrappy who has his own wardrobe and comes on every holiday or trip with us. He has outfits for occasions such as Christmas which help my son psychological prepare for things. So scrappy will put on his Santa outfit 2 weeks before Christmas and then it is a gentle reminder it is on its way or he packs him a suitcase if we are going away.
7. Now and next board/choices board this or that.
=Particularly useful with children like my son who have particularly slow processing speed. It helps then be clear about what is happening or to make choices more easily. It helps if you ensure that the then is something they will enjoy doing or that one choice is more appealing than the other.
8. Fidget toys
– My son likes the twisty ones best as his stim is to pull the sleeves of his jumper but try several to see what suits your child.
9. Rubix cube
– Calms and gives the child something to do with their hands when talking so he is likely to open up more.
10. Punch bag.
-We have have one in my sons room and have done since he was 5. One professional suggested it might encourage violence as a stress relief but this has not been my experience. Self-explanatory really, use it to redirect aggression and frustration.
-A safe accessible indoor space to go when in meltdown. This really helped minimise violent outburst but you have to follow the rules for it to work. It should be filled with soft and calming things ideally chosen by the child, you should never send your child to it just make them aware that it is there if they are feeling anxious, overloaded or angry and once they are in it do not look in, talk to them or call them out. Leave them for as long as they need.
12. Sleeping pod
– It can also double up as the den if space is short. Having this enclosed controllable space really helped my son settle at night and I had far less visits from him during the night. I think they are listed as an over=bed privacy tent but in our house it was always known as the pod.