• Summer Activities for Children

  • Anxiety during a difficult time

    It’s hard to imagine that there’s a person who hasn’t suffered some anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anxiety does serve a purpose: it’s meant to protect us from threats by preparing us to respond to a crisis. It becomes a problem when we feel paralyzed by the need for assurance that we’re safe. Some people can tolerate discomfort and manage their anxiety, while others may be having trouble coping.

    How do you know if anxiety has become a problem for you? The answer is different for everyone. It’s normal to be anxious when life has dramatically changed, and our health and welfare are both threatened. It’s reasonable to be anxious about that, and anxiety can bring symptoms like chronic worry, restlessness, insomnia, feelings of dread, tense muscles, irritability, and a fight response. You might feel sad or hopeless, or panicky and overwhelmed. Consider this: trying to figure out if your anxiety is a problem can actually make you feel more anxious. The best approach is to prioritize taking care of yourself and your mental health, being open to the idea of asking for help if you need it. Here are some thoughts on how to do that:

    • Limit your exposure to stressful information. Yes, it’s prudent to keep abreast of the facts regarding the pandemic. However, staying too plugged in will almost certainly result in heightened anxiety. Get your information from trustworthy sources, setting boundaries as to exactly how much information you consume. If this means disconnecting from social media, it may be worth the peace of mind.
    • Focus on what you can control. Certain things are within your control, like sticking to the recommended preventative measures. You might also prepare an emergency kit and stock your pantry with shelf-stable foods. Do these things calmly, making sure not to let yourself spiral into panic.
    • Give your anxiety 15 minutes, then set it aside. Write down your worries, taking the full 15 minutes, and then go do something else. You might try guided meditation to quiet your mind. Remember, you don’t have to act on your anxieties, and sometimes the very act of writing them down can help you release them.
    • Stay connected to other people. This may take some creativity, but it’s important to avoid the isolation that can result in even more anxiety.
    • Seek the help of a professional if you need it. It’s surprisingly easy to get help from a therapist these days. Many mental health professionals are offering telehealth visits, preventing the anxiety that comes with having to physically go to an appointment.

    STAR of CA is here to offer support for people with special needs, providing important support services for adults, children, and families. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • How Games can Help Children with Autism

    For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), communication and social interaction can be challenging. It can be difficult to make friends because kids with ASD often find it hard to read social cues. Now, therapists are beginning to use fantasy role-playing games (RPGs) to help these young people engage with others, building social skills, confidence, and other skills. Dungeons and Dragons is one example of a game being successfully used for this purpose, but there are other RPGs out there that provide similar benefits. Why are these games so helpful?

    • They’re collaborative. To effectively work with party members, players collaborate and create strategies. This helps develop communication skills, and triumphing together as a party strengthens bonds, increasing trust between players. It’s easy to see how the skills developed in these collaborations can be useful in real life.
    • They provide the opportunity to develop decision-making skills. People with ASD often struggle with making decisions, but an RPG provides structure to help them learn to do this. There are character traits and backstories to choose, and players must make choices about their actions. Because this is an environment with no consequences in the real world, it takes the pressure off achieving a successful outcome. Players learn that decisions don’t necessarily have a set outcome but can result in a variety of conclusions.
    • They’re transformative, allowing players to “become” someone else. These games are escapist, and players can base their character or their character’s ideals on themselves or make them the exact opposite. It’s a safe space to try on new identities and observe what happens.
    • The games involve rules and consequences. These games have rules and structure built in, and the actions and decisions players make can result in different consequences.
    • They’re interactive, giving kids opportunities to make friends and build social skills. These aren’t games that you can easily play on your own. Getting into character and interacting with other players can build confidence, increase social skills, and help start conversations. Along the way, friendships form as players connect with like-minded people.
    • They require imagination, creativity, and flexibility. RPGs involve fantasy, and because they’re not video games, they require visualization. Players get to imagine whole worlds and civilizations, including fight scenes, cities, monsters, and fantastic creatures. They also have to be flexible, because the games require improvisation when a decision doesn’t have the intended result.
    • There’s no right or wrong way to play. People with ASD often fear failure, so the highly personalized gameplay in an RPG

    If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, STAR of CA is here to offer support, not just by keeping you informed of opportunities for fun with your kids, but also with important support services. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.