Most kids have some innate fear of bugs, but it can be particularly intense for autistic children. Often, they don’t understand what insects are or the threat they pose, making them a terrifying prospect.
Fortunately, as a parent, there are many things that you can do to alleviate their fears. Here’s a rundown:
Educate Your Child About Bugs
The first step is to educate your child about facts regarding bugs. While some bite, hardly any are seriously dangerous. And those that are tend to live a long way from people’s homes.
If you react violently every time a wasp enters the room, your child will learn that this is the proper response and follow your lead. They will internalize your emotions and react in the same way in the future.
The trick here is to model a different kind of behavior. Stay calm when creepy crawlies come close and show your child that they are not necessarily a threat. If a particularly dangerous insect comes nearby, calmly trap it under a cup and remove it from the environment. Don’t panic.
Go Bug Hunting
Another strategy is to engage in proactive bug hunting. The reason this is effective is that it gives your child some control over their interaction with insects. They are the ones seeking contact, not the other way around.
Looking for bugs can be quite fun, too. Over time, children get used to them and, eventually, come to enjoy their company through prolonged exposure.
Prevent Bugs From Infesting Your Home
While the odd bug here and there is nothing to worry about when they start infesting your home, it is right to be scared. Don’t allow them to build up. Instead, call in pest control at the first sign of trouble. Excessive infestations can be traumatic for autistic children.
Teach The Value Of Positive Self-Talk
Autistic children can get into the habit of talking negatively about insects, worrying about them even when they aren’t there. This rumination then leads to unpleasant emotions which can flare up whenever insects come near.
The trick here is to reframe the conversation in your child’s mind. Instead of letting them see insects as a foe that controls them, teach them that they are bigger and stronger than the insects they fear. Changing the conversation makes them more confident and less fearful whenever creepy crawlies come by.
Distract To Relax
If the above methods fail, you can also try distracting to relax. Often it is not the bugs themselves that are the problem, but the focus on them. Some children can develop a fear of going outside because of the risk that they might interact with an insect of one kind or another.
To prevent excessive vigilance, try to distract. Come up with fun activities and try to avoid talking about bugs at all, except outside of controlled environments. If you notice that your child is getting overwhelmed, teach them to calm down with deep breaths or by closing their eyes.