Home|Blog|February is Psychology Month – Tips to support your child with ASD and mental health needs 

February is Psychology Month – Tips to support your child with ASD and mental health needs 

February is Psychology Month in Canada. Did you know that up to 70% of children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) also experience mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression?  Often times, children with autism are misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed because their mental health symptoms are attributed to their developmental disability.  

It is important to address mental health issues in your child as soon as possible to best support them. If issues are left untreated, they can persist into adulthood and impact areas such as employment and relationships.  

Signs that may indicate your child is struggling with their mental health 

Given the overlap between ASD and some mental health disorders, here are a few signs to watch for that may indicate your child is struggling with their mental health: 

  • Unexplained changes to sleep, energy level, appetite, hygiene, self-care, and energy level  
  • Increased worries that interfere with daily activities  
  • Avoiding activities or people that once brought enjoyment  
  • Recent drop in grades and school avoidance  
  • Increased crying, meltdowns, irritability, and withdrawal 
  • Expression of feelings of guilt, hopelessness and worthlessness  
  • Suicidal or self-harm thoughts, communication and/or behaviour  

If you have concerns about your child’s mental health or well-being, you can start by speaking with your child’s primary doctor. It’s important to document your concerns and observations and bring them to appointments. 

What you can do to support your child’s mental health 

1. Teach your child about emotions 

You can start by identifying and naming emotions and rating the intensity of emotions, as well as breaking emotions down into their component parts (i.e., thoughts, body clues, behaviors). You can use graphics to support this, such as a feeling chart, feeling thermometer, or even ask them to point to where on their body the feeling affects.  

 2. Teach and reinforce coping skills 

Coping skills are methods that help a person deal with stressful situations. They may include deep breathing, positive self-talk, self-soothing activities, or engaging in pleasurable activities such as drawing, reading, listening to music, and meditation. 

 3. Increase protective factors to build your child’s resiliency 

Protective factors can help prevent problems from occurring and may help to limit the impact of negative events on your child. These factors may look like focusing on activities that will make your child feel accomplished, finding a strong community to support your child and family, and maintaining daily routines. 

4. Identify and address other areas that could impact your child’s mood and behaviours

These areas are commonly health-related factors, education/learning factors, and environmental changes. It’s important to work with a support team made up of your child’s doctors, school team, any relevant professionals (i.e., Applied Behaviour Analysis clinicians, Occupational Therapy, etc.), and friends/family to help you understand how different areas may be affecting your child. 

Learning factors and their impact on a child’s mental health and well-being 

It is common that undiagnosed learning challenges can result in increased feelings of school-related anxiety, homework avoidance, and low self-esteem. To help you understand if your child is experiencing learning challenges that are impacting their mood, consider connecting with their school teacher, principal, or other members of your child’s school team.  

Kinark offers psychological/psychoeducational assessments that provide information about your child’s learning profile and help you better understand how to support them at home and at school. You can learn more about this service on our website

Additionally, our team is here to support you with finding the services that are right for your child and family. For one-on-one service navigation support, request a free service consultation with our team of Family Support Workers. 


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