My son Thomas has Autism and as expected finds many things very difficult to understand which makes life that little bit harder as a family. He is the happiest and friendliest little boy you could meet and it is guaranteed that he would put a smile on anybody’s face.
As a mum I have tried to help him understand daily situations that we would almost certainly take for granted.
Thomas has a love of reading books after teaching himself to read even though he couldn’t communicate with us as he didn’t speak until he was four years old.
His love of his iPad had taught him words and pictures and when he was able to verbalise, it was amazing to hear him reading from a book
Due to his love of reading I have created stories about Thomas where I have used him and his beloved comfort blanket as the main character. I have tried to use situations such as his trip to the hairdresser and dentist, which have been extremely traumatic experiences for him, and have turned these situations into magical tales with him as the main star.
I originally set out with these stories printed on A4 paper which I kept at home but then decided to put it into a printed book so that he could keep and read himself. I funded the self publishing of his book called ‘The Adventures of Thomas and Blanket’ which is through Amazon, and to see him reading and understanding the stories was worth all the time and effort in the world. This book has helped Thomas greatly in understanding these situations and he no longer becomes distressed when visiting his hairdresser, who also stars in his book, although we are still working on the dentist trips but I suppose we can’t have it all eh
I am overwhelmed at the response as we have sold over 100 copies of the book through Amazon with some sales as far as Europe which is a wonderful thought knowing that other families have found our book a benefit for their child.
I don’t admit to being an amazing author as I am just a ‘Mam’.
‘The Adventures of Thomas and Blanket’ has even been raised with officials in the Welsh Assembly Government who have overall policy lead on Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Education after we sent a copy to Kirsty Williams Cabinet Member. Again another achievement if something did ever come if it
I wanted to share our story and our books as there may be someone who also has the same fears and perhaps Thomas and his blanket may help them understand that little bit more, just by reading his magical adventure stories.
This is a link to a local news article for you to read too:
My name is Chantelle Wilson. I am the artist behind Blossom and Wither Art. I am 20 years old and live in Haltwhistle. I first discovered my love for art in first school and I went on to achieve A*’s in both GCSE and A-Level art at Haydon Bridge High School. I have autism and I use art as a means of escape from sometimes a cruel world. Art is a way for me to enter my own world and enjoy what I love
Anxiety can make a child feel scared, panicky, embarrassed or ashamed.
Some of the signs to look out for in your child are:
finding it hard to concentrate
not sleeping, or waking in the night with bad dreams
not eating properly
quickly getting angry or irritable, and being out of control during outbursts
constantly worrying or having negative thoughts
feeling tense and fidgety, or using the toilet often
being clingy all the time (when other children are ok)
complaining of tummy aches and feeling unwell
Your child may not be old enough to recognise why they’re feeling this way.
The reason for the anxiety (if there is one) will differ depending on the age of the child. Separation anxiety is common in younger children, whereas older children and teenagers tend to worry more about school performance, relationships or health.
What types of anxiety do children and teenagers experience?
Common types of anxiety in children and teenagers are described below.
A fear or phobia about something specific
Children are commonly afraid of things like monsters, dogs or water. This is a perfectly normal part of growing up, but has the potential to become a phobia (a type of anxiety disorder) when the fear becomes overwhelming and affects your child’s day-to-day life.
Feeling anxious for most of the time for no apparent reason
While it’s normal for children to frequently have fears and worries, some anxious children may grow up to develop a long-term condition called generalised anxiety disorder when they become a teenager or young adult.
Generalised anxiety disorder causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event.
People affected by it feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed.
Separation anxiety means a child worrying about not being with their parent or regular carer.
It is common in young children, and normally develops at about six months of age. It can make settling into nursery or school or with a child minder very difficult.
Separation anxiety in older children may be a sign that they’re feeling insecure about something – they could be reacting to changes at home, for example.
Social anxiety is not wanting to go out in public, see friends or take part in activities.
Social ‘shyness’ is perfectly normal for some children and teenagers, but it becomes a problem – ‘social anxiety disorder’ – when everyday activities like shopping or speaking on the phone cause intense, overwhelming fear. Children affected by it tend to fear doing or saying something they think will be humiliating.
Social anxiety disorder tends to affect older children who have gone through puberty.
It is probably time to get professional help for your child’s anxiety if:
you feel it is not getting better or is getting worse, and efforts to tackle it yourself have not worked
you think it’s slowing down their development or having a significant effect on their schooling or relationships
it happens very frequently
How serious can it be?
Long-term anxiety can severely interfere with a child’s personal development, family life and schooling.
Anxiety disorders that start in childhood often persist into the teenage years and early adulthood. Teenagers with an anxiety disorder are more likely to develop clinical depression, misuse drugs and feel suicidal.
This is why you should get help as soon as you realise it’s a problem.
Where should I go for help?
Seeing your GP
You can talk to your GP on your own or with your child, or your child might be able to have an appointment without you. The doctor should listen to your concerns and offer some advice about what to do next.
Your child may be referred to the local child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS), where the workers are trained to help young people with a wide range of problems. Professionals who work in CAMHS services include psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. They should offer help and support to parents and carers as well as the child. Learn more about CAMHS.
Youth counselling services
If your child doesn’t want to see a doctor, they may be able to get help from a local youth counselling service.
Youth counselling services are specially set up for young people to talk about what’s worrying them, and get advice.
For more information, visit Youth Access, the largest provider of young people’s advice and counselling services in the UK.
The type of treatment offered will depend on what is causing your child’s anxiety.
It can be helpful for your child to talk in confidence about what is worrying them to a trained person, especially as it’s someone they don’t know.
If your child is being seen at CAMHS, they might see a child and adolescent psychotherapist or a clinical psychologist. If they are at a youth counselling service, it will be a trained youth counsellor or psychotherapist.
These sessions can help them work out what is making them anxious and how they can work through the situation.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help your child manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave.
It has been proven to help with anxiety that isn’t severe, and is commonly offered to young people who are anxious.
Your child will work with the therapist to find ways to change the way they think and find strategies for coping in situations that make them anxious. They’ll usually have 9-20 sessions.
It’s not clear whether CBT is effective for children younger than six years of age.
If your child’s anxiety problem has not got better, your doctor may talk to you about trying medication.
A type of antidepressant, called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), may help your child feel calmer and differently about things.
Antidepressants usually take around two to four weeks to work properly, so you or your child may not notice the difference immediately.
It’s natural to be concerned about side effects. Your child should be aware of any possible adverse effects and should tell you or their doctor if they happen. Read more about SSRIs.
What can I do to help my child?
If a child is experiencing anxiety, there is plenty parents and carers can do to help. First, it’s important to talk to your child about their anxiety or worries. Read our advice on How to help your anxious child.
Why are some children affected and others not?
Genes and personality
Some children are simply born more nervous and anxious and less able to cope with stress than other children.
A child’s anxious personality may be partly determined by the genes they’ve inherited from their parents. Parents of anxious children may recognise the signs and remember feeling and behaving the same when they were younger.
Some children can also develop anxiety after a series of stressful events. They may be able to cope with one of these events, but several difficult events together may be too much for them to cope with. Examples are:
Frequently moving house and school – it can be hard to settle when you’re always expecting change
Divorce or separation of parents, especially when there are new step parents and siblings (although many children will adapt to this and settle in time)
Parents fighting or arguing
Death of a close relative or friend
Becoming seriously ill or injured in an accident
Having someone in the family who is ill or disabled
School-related issues such as homework or exams, or bullying or friendship problems