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  • Writer's pictureChristine McCarty

Trigger Solutions…

Last week we did a posting on what triggers anxiety for a child on the spectrum (see post here). As promised, this week’s post discusses what I like to call “trigger solutions” or the actions Addy’s team has put into effect to help reduce Addy’s anxiety.


Listed below are common stressors that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) might experience and what solutions have worked for Addy and others. As always, please consult with your therapists/doctors to ensure what is appropriate for you and your child.


Unstructured Time: Unstructured time is time that Addy gets that has no specific rules or activity – this time has no boundaries or expectations. Examples of some trigger solutions:

  • Fidgets and/or eye catchy stress balls to keep one occupied/with a purpose

  • Creating an activity like coloring

  • Set expectations (a finite time period) so they know this “free time” won’t last forever to avoid melt downs when “free time” has to end

Academic Situations: Being in a classroom and keeping up with their classmates can be stressful for someone on the spectrum. Examples of some trigger solutions:

  • Take the lesson whether it be math, reading, spelling etc., and look for other ways of teaching like these fabulous Montessori educational tools.

  • Make sure your child has special accommodations for testing and a place to take breaks as needed

Sensory: Sensory issues can be triggered almost any time or anywhere. Sensory integration challenges can overpower a person’s ability to control him or herself. Examples of trigger solutions:

  • A fidget that they always have with them. Addy currently wears a chewy bracelet which seems to give her input in time of need.

  • Compression vests as well as pants are a common solution and go-to resource for many kids on the spectrum as they give them constant input, which again gives them relief when anxious.

Socialization: Social situations are already challenging for individuals with ASD and can increase anxiety in the moment or even in anticipation of an upcoming event. Examples of trigger solutions:

  • Like anything in life, the more practice they get in appropriate social interactions, the better they become in those situations. In turn, we schedule playdates with her friends (while a therapist oversees the interactions) so we can help direct appropriate behavior.

  • Social awareness books are key! I read one sometimes twice a week in what appropriate social behavior looks like and how its ok to be different/who she is!


Routines: After a day at school where the child was able to maintain body control, listen, complete activities, and appear composed, going home and having even more expectations including typical routines, can increase anxiety and agitation. Examples of trigger solutions:

  • Give them “me time”. Before we do baths, homework, dinner, etc. we let her do what she wants for about 10mins. This gives her a chance to do whatever she needs to do before we go back on routine. We also do this right before bed. This seems to calm her down. Knowing she has this time to make her own choices allows her to regain control and focus.

  • Sundays. This day is truly her off day. There are no therapists, just time for her to let lose, cry, have meltdowns etc., and it works! After Sunday’s craziness, Monday comes, and she’s focused and ready to tackle the week. My husband and I have just come to grips with Sunday being the witching day.


“Trigger solutions” have made a world of a difference in everyday life occurrences like school, social settings, etc. By understanding what triggers Addy, we have not only helped her regulate and prepare her for life, but also made life more pleasant for our entire family! We can leave the house more and more without meltdowns! In doing this, Addy can function in a more typical manner and is a happier kid!


Much love,

Raising Addy

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