Wood conducted research with Autism Speaks Weatherstone Fellow John Danial.
Research has confirmed that anxiety is very common among children who have autism. In fact, many autistic children deal with extreme anxieties and phobias.
"Being nonverbal can add to the challenge because the child may feel unable to communicate what’s making him or her anxious," Wood said. "Naturally, this can likewise be extremely frustrating for family members and other caregivers who want to help the child."
The treatment program Wood and Danial are developing incorporates strategies to assist children who have difficulty communicating cope with their anxieties and phobias.
"With further refinement and scientific evaluation, we hope this program will help many children and their families," Wood said. "Meanwhile, we have been presenting and discussing our program at professional meetings."
The program's suggestions include enlisting professional help, approaching anxiety-producing situations in playful ways, helping the child recognize emotions, developing soothing phrases, replaying pretend scenarios and stepping out into the real world.
"The goal is for the child to become 'habituated,'" Wood said. "This is a form of learning where someone stops reacting to a situation after repeated exposures. In the case of an anxiety-inducing situation, the fear is reduced considerably, at least under certain supportive circumstances."
Questions about the program can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.