When school is a headache...literally.
School is a word that brings me relief and anxiety at the same time. Relief, because it a span of 5 hours that I can regroup and focus on my next plan of action, doctors appointments, IEP planning, research, meal planning, and maybe if I'm lucky a little me time. Relief, that learning brings my child joy, one of the few senses of accomplishments they have in a sea of disappointments and rejections. Relief, because I need a break of the intensity of autism parenting, rewarding and wonderful but taxing. Anxiety, because I fear the phone call from the school that my child is melting down and I have to go pick them up early. Anxiety, that my child is getting bullied or ostracized. Anxiety, that my child wants to drop out of school because of the stress. I am not sure if this is every parents experience, but I can only imagine that this is typical for many autism parents like me.
I, of course, am not the only one with anxiety around school, my child suffers from daily long term anxiety around this topic. Not just because of the obvious social challenges that a child with autism faces but because of the sensory challenges as well. School is loud, bright with fluorescent lights, busy, chaotic at times and overwhelming for many children with autism.
In the past year this has manifested as headaches, chronic headaches. Everyday at least once my child has a headache. It is heartbreaking when your child is suffering and as I parent and nutritionist this is where I let my emotion fuel my passion to help heal. I have come up with an anti-headache action plan for my child. Here it is!
1/ take breaks frequently- come home for lunch when possible, excuse yourself from overwhelming classes for 5 minutes in the hall to cool down, take a mental health day off school regularly. This allows the nervous system to reset and calm.
2/ hugs and high rewards-whatever activity your child highly prefers and highly connects you, do often and frequently. Positive feelings lead to positive relaxing hormones and help reduce anxiety and stress. Hugs or whatever type of affection your child can tolerate can produce oxytocin "the happy hormone", this lowers blood pressure, tension and anxiety.
3/breath-a lot of tension and anxiety is held in the jaw, neck and chest. Taking time daily or as often as possible to do mindful deep breathing can ward off tension headaches. Teach your child how to breath deeply through the nose and out the mouth, do it with them and it can help relax you both.
4/magnesium-relaxes the nervous system, improves sleep, helps with hydration. It can be taken as a supplement or in magnesium salt baths for relaxation. Foods high in magnesium are pumpkin seeds, spinach, swiss chard, cashews, quinoa, black beans.
5/support your child's adrenals-something as simple as a cup of water with a pinch of good quality sea salt or pink Himalayan sea salt can help to support the adrenal glands and that will help reduce anxiety caused headaches. Symptoms of adrenal stress are fatigue, low stress tolerance, headaches and sleep issues.
This is our families action plan and it is having a tremendous improvement my child's headaches and overall sense of wellness. Just a few simple applied strategies can help improve the quality of your child's life too.