Autism and Deafness: Guide

Joyce Sewell-Rutter and Stephanie Dawson | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Social and emotional wellbeing and mental health

Developing an understanding of self and of others, managing anxiety, and helping to build emotional resilience are vital in reducing vulnerabilities in autistic people.

Autistic children and young people start every day with a high level of stress and can reach crisis point more quickly than their typically developing peers.  Around 9.2% of the general population suffers from anxiety – in children and young people with autism this figure is around 40% (National Autistic Society).  These numbers relate to having a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder – but many more children and young people with autism live with heightened stress and anxiety that has a huge impact on their everyday lives.

The unique characteristics of autism mean that children and young people are predisposed to higher levels of anxiety than their typically developing peers.

Social difficulties include difficulties understanding other people’s perspectives and difficulties understanding social expectations.

Communication difficulties include problems expressing feelings, needs and wants and in comprehending receptive language

Sensory processing differences mean that responses to sensory information can be very different.  Fears of particular sounds, smells and lights may be exhibited.

Rigidity of thought can lead to difficulties coping with changes and new situations, as well as problems finding flexible responses to apparent threats.

All of these issues lead to a cumulative effect – from the outside it can appear that one thing has caused distress but the anxiety has usually been building for some time.

Mental health problems are more common in children and people with autism than in the general population.  Mental health problems can lead to even higher levels of stress and anxiety.  It is vital that children and young people with autism are supported to find healthy outlets for their anxieties.  A document dealing with mental health issues can be downloaded here.