It is not uncommon for children and young people to feel anxious and worried at times, especially those with autism.

Young person with hood up holding head in her hands.

Anxiety disorders affect 42% of autistic children compared with just 3% of children without autism

Source: (29-Aug-23)

There are several types of anxiety that everybody experiences, to some degree, at some point in their lives, such as separation anxiety, general anxiety, social anxiety, demand expectation anxiety, and phobias, to name a few. The degree to which these anxieties may affect a young person will differ, as will the way in which they present.

People with autism experience all the same types of anxiety as everyone else. The difference is is that the way they experience it can be much more overwhelming for them. The reason for this is that people with autism find it more difficult to process and file away aspects of, or the whole of, the scary experiences.

The National Autistic Society suggests that there are four key areas that may relate to anxiety for people with autism. These are:

  1. Difficulty recognising emotions of self and others
  2. Sensory sensitivities
  3. Difficulty with uncertainty, and
  4. Performance anxiety.

Read more

Signs of anxiety

Anxiety may present in various ways depending on the child or young person. In some people the signs are quite obvious, while in others they are more difficult to recognise. Sometimes the signs are easier to spot in certain situations or environments than others. For example, a person might clearly express more anxiety at school than at home, or the other way around. Or they may express more anxiety at school than in a shopping centre, or the other way around. Or they might express more anxiety at family gatherings than alone, or the other way around.

However, environmental factors are not the only causes of anxiety. Other factors can cause or contribute to anxiety, such as an unexpected change in routine, difficulty predicting what is coming next or a misinterpretation of a certain event or interaction.

As children grow into teens, and teens into adults, their understanding of themselves, the world around them, and their role in the world, changes. They learn to adapt and cope to the changing environment, and to their changing awareness of themselves and their world. Sometimes, things that used to trigger anxiety become less scary, as they find and grow their own resilience and ways of coping. Their changing environment and roles invariably means that they encounter new challenges, which become new triggers, for new worries.

How can we support them in alleviating the scariness of their journey?

Often, in circumstances that are scary but not necessarily debilitating, simple interventions such as offering clear and predicable routines, clarity in communication, planning before a scary situation, and short exposures to scary situations, may help.

worried boy biting his nails

Worried about a child?

If you feel you, your child or a young person is at immediate risk of harm or they have physically harmed themselves, then you should always seek immediate support by attending the hospital’s emergency department or contacting 999. Otherwise, you may consider contacting:

two hands and an exclamation mark

Resources and support

Recommended reading

Avoiding anxiety in autisitc adults, by Dr Luke Beardon
ISBN: 1529394740

Avoiding anxiety in autisitc children, by Dr Luke Beardon
ISBN: 1529394767

Don't worry, be happy: A child's guide to dealing with feeling anxious, by Poppy O'Neill
ISBN: 1786852365

Starving the anxiety gremlin: A CBT workbook, by Kate Collins-Donnelly
ISBN: 1849054924

The autism discussion page om stress, anxiety, shutdowns and meltdowns, by Bill Nason

The Parents' guide to managing anxiety in children with autism, by Raelene Dundon
ISBN: 1785926551

Information and resources


Chilypep - Open up Barnsley
Chilypep & Compass have collaborated with young people and organisations to create this map of young people's wellbeing services in Barnsley. Here you will be able to search for local groups, services and supports.

National Autistic Society (NAS) - Anxiety

NHS UK - Anxiety in children

The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health - Guides

Young minds - Supporting your child with anxiety: A guide for parents
This page discusses what is anxiety, identifies some of the symptoms and how to help.

Youth Access - The advice and counselling network

Informaiton Leaflets

Anxiety: A Guide for Parents
Produced by, this guide describes common signs of anxiety and gives you information on how to sport signs of anxiety in children with intellectual disabilities.

The Anxious Child
Produced by, this booklet is for parents and carers wanting to know more about anxiety in children and young people


Brain in hand
An app that provides discreet and simple tools for managing everyday anxiety and overwhelm so you can do more of the things that matter to you. With this app, you will be able to keep a track of everything you need with personalised routines, prompts and reminders. Available to download via the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

A family friendly relaxation, breathing exercise and activity app for children which available via the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and Nintendo 

Molehill Mountain
This app is to help autistic people with anxiety and is based on Congnitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) approached which have been adapted for autistic people. The app is avilable to download via the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Where to access support

Branching Minds
Although Branching Minds does not offer direct support, they will direct you to appropriate support services such as CAMHS, Compass Be or other relevant services.

CAMHS Barnsley
The Barnsley child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) is an NHS service that offers support and treatment for children and young people, aged up to 18 years old, who are experiencing difficulties with their mental health and well-being.

Compass Be
Compass Be works with children, young people and families in educational settings in Barnsley providing support, help and advice for students who face issues related to their mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Young Minds
Young minds offer support, advice and resources to support and empower young people's emotional wellbeing. They also offer a parent's helpline.

In need of urgent help?

  • If you feel your child or young person is at immediate risk of harm or they have physically harmed themselves, then you should always seek immediate support by attending the hospital’s emergency department or contact 999. Otherwise, you may consider contacting:

Did this information help you?

  • Page last reviewed: 20 February 2024
  • Next review due: 6 January 2025