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Managing Anxiety in People with Autism

A Treatment Guide for Parents, Teachers, and Mental Health Professionals
Anne M. Chalfant, Psy.D.


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isbn# 978-1-60613-004-9
5½" x 8½"
275 pages

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"Chalfant, founder and director of Annie’s Centre, the first independent health clinic for children in Sydney, Australia, has written a clear description of what anxiety is, when it becomes a disorder, its effects on children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and what interventions are the most helpful in reducing a child’s anxiety over time. Covering direct treatment options such as therapy and medication as well as treatment for family members of people with ASD, she also discusses how parents can indirectly treat anxiety and lays out useful strategies for schools and medical professionals. Chalfant emphasizes that adults' encouragement, commitment to moving forward in small steps, and willingness to endure short-term difficulties can reduce a child's anxiety and lead to a full and inclusive life rather than one of avoiding situations that may provoke anxiety. She shares many stories from her personal practice and makes liberal use of charts and tables in discussing treatment choices. VERDICT A skillful explanation of the causes of anxiety, this guide also outlines strategies for helping those with ASD to cope and reduce their anxiety. A must-have for parents, teachers, and clinicians dealing with autistic children struggling with anxiety."
-Library Journal, August 2011

"Managing Anxiety in People with Autism is a guide to recognizing and reducing unhelpful anxiety in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Its author is a practicing clinical psychologist who specializes in learning, developmental and mental health issues in children and their families and is on faculty at the University of New South Wales and the University of Western Sydney, Australia.

The book is divided into three sections: a description of why people with ASD are so susceptible to anxiety; strategies that parent/caregivers or teachers can use to help autistic children manage anxiety; and lastly, detailed descriptions of direct therapy, with an emphasis on how the author uses Cognitive Behavorial Therapy (CBT) to identify and change behaviors that characterize anxiety. The last chapter offers suggestions for intervention for parents and families who feel vulnerable and isolated as a result of the pressures of anxiety and ASD.

Chalfant writes in an easy-to-follow style. Each chapter includes tables presenting comparisons, boxed items such as descriptions of key terms within the chapter, examples from the author’s case work and summaries at the end of each chapter. Many of the suggested strategies in Part II resemble parenting techniques and structured teaching methods common for all children: encouraging 'brave' behavior during gradual exposure to anxiety-making experiences; ignoring fearful behavior that leads to avoidance and impedes a child’s progress; breaking down tasks into easier-to-handle chunks; and use of praise and rewards. The book is intended to guide parents, caregivers and teachers in helping ASD children face social interaction, control their emotions and express their fears.

The book concludes with appendices related to assessment measures, helpful websites, books and resources. The publisher deserves commendation for the book’s distinctive cover. It is a welcome change from dreary colors and dull images. This would be an appropriate addition to any consumer health library, especially in a pediatric setting."
-CAPHIS Consumer Connections

"Professionals and parents working with people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are aware of the huge role that anxiety plays in their lives. Unfortunately, programs developed to reduce anxiety in typical people are not effective with this population. This book addresses this problem thoughtfully, comprehensively, and practically. It presents psychological wisdom for understanding anxiety in ASD and effective practical treatment approaches. It does this in a sophisticated way but with language and concepts that are understandable by parents and professionals. This book has a thorough, detailed, and conceptually clear explanation of what anxiety in ASD is, how it is experienced by people with ASD, and why it is so prevalent. It then goes on to offer a range of strategies with clear explanations and multiple examples to guide those interested in creating effective and productive interventions. This book represents a major advance in our ability to help people with ASD to confront one of their major difficulties and should be widely read and frequently used."
-Gary B. Mesibov, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"With plenty of practical and professional information, Managing Anxiety in People with Autism is a solid pick for parents and educators."
-Library Bookwatch, October 2011

"This book was written by a clinical psychologist to provide parents, teachers and professionals options when dealing with anxiety in people with autism. It highlights over 20 real stories from families who were seen in the clinic setting by the author, which serve to help the reader put the difficulties of managing anxiety into perspective. Another highlights is the pertinent list websites, books and other resources.

Part I explains anxiety and its relationship to people with autism. This overview is information without unnecessary jargon. Part II discusses the anxiety dilemma—'as a parent do you encourage bravery or permit avoidance?'. Indirect treatment strategies for use by parents are described, such as 'praise brave behavior' 'emotion coaching' and 'role reversals'. The common anxiety dilemma for teachers and healthcare professionals is covered as well as indirect treatment by preschools, schools, and clinics.

Part III outlines direct treatment including psychoanalysis alternative medicine, medication and cognitive behavior therapy. Each topic is discussed in detail, with the pros and cons and in common language. There is information about treatment of anxiety in parents and siblings of people with autism, a relatively underserved population. There are many informative tables, such as 'common signs of anxiety across development in people with ASD,' 'Common anxiety dilemmas for parents', and charts that can easily be modified for your own use, such as 'Steps and rewards'. Practical and clear directions using the 'worry scale' are included, as well as how to teach someone 'controlled exercises,' 'muscle relaxation skills' and 'cognitive restructuring'. The information is sufficient enough for the reader to try these techniques with confidence and understanding.

Parents, teachers and professionals can use this easy to read book to not only gain a better understanding of anxiety in people with autism but also gain skills to help manage it through the various methods presented."
-Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, April 2012 79(2) 119

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