Stress and Autism Spectrum Disorders

ASD and StressStress is a way of life for people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For them, the question becomes how much stress?


Stress can have many different triggers:
  • Change in routine Change in the environment
  • Sensory processing issues Loosing something
  • Getting something new Trying something new
  • Trying to predict what will happen next Trying to follow verbal
  • Directions
  • Trying to cope with social situations Trying to figure out a
  • Conversation
  • Unpredictability/chaos Variety (change) or surprises

I think you get the idea… There are a lot of things typical people find pleasant, like surprises, that can cause a great deal of stress for someone with ASD. Most people, when faced with overwhelming stress, tend to have difficulty coping, and may have trouble managing their emotions. People with ASD have similar difficulties, but may become easily overwhelmed. Sometimes they may withdraw or totally shut down, and other times they may “come apart at the seams” and act out, or disinhibit (which means loose control of themselves). All people need to learn how to deal with stress to be able to function in a healthy manner. People who have ASD have many more stressors built in as part of their autism. For them learning to manage stress becomes even more important. For them, learning to manage stress becomes both a process of learning tools with which to calm down and release stress, but learning ways specific to them about how to identify their own stress levels. 

Suggested reading: Paxton, K. & Estay, I. (2007). Counselling people on
the autism spectrum: A practical manual. London: Jessica Kingsley

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