Is Vitamin B6 helpful for anxiety?

My son’s neurologist suggested that Vitamin B6 could be tried to help lessen my son’s anxiety. He is having focal seizures, is autistic and non-verbal. While not a cure for anxiety, it was something that could be tried to help with symptoms.

It seems there are only small studies on its effectiveness for both anxiety and depression, but I did find a study showing that Vitamin B6, increases the body’s production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain.

In the study, David Field, PhD, from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, said that Vitamin B6 helps the body produce a specific chemical messenger that inhibits impulses in the brain, and our study links this calming effect with reduced anxiety among the participants.”

The dose of Vitamin B6 was high in this study, 100mg. This would suggest that eating food rich in B6 may not be enough to make a substantial difference. However, it could be a worthwhile first step to increase foods with naturally occurring B6. Foods high in Vitamin B6 include fish, chicken, tofu, pork, beef, sweet potatoes, bananas, potatoes, avocados, and pistachios. 

I did end up trying a supplement which had Vitamin B6 in it and other calming ingredients which was formulated for children 8+. While definitely not a cure, the anxiety symptoms he was displaying at the time have definitely lessened. I saw an improved mood after about 2-3 weeks. The neurologist suggested using the brand Blackmores, who have a supplement with high Vitamin B dosages. I was unable to try this because my son cannot swallow tablets. However this may be something others might like to try.

Beyond Nuggets – Food Aversion

Many children with ASD have very particular food palates and this can cause a lot of stress at home when this palate will not go beyond their restrictive favourites – often chicken nuggets which are dry, crunchy and very predictable in smell and texture.

I often get asked how to help children explore different foods and this is not a simple process. Often aversions can be related not only to texture, but the mixing of foods (ie spaghetti bolognaise), the temperature and how it is presented. For instance, eating a strawberry may not be palatable using fingers but may be accepted using a fork or given pureed in a fruit pouch. Experimenting with different cutlery, divided food dishes (so foods are not touching) and in different forms is a good first step.

The “SOS Approach To Feeding” could be tried to help expand a child’s view of food. This can be a very slow process and needs a lot of time and patience. Please do speak to a qualified speech pathologist or eating therapist who can help guide you through the steps if you need more assistance and support.

Getting Started

Step 1 Choose the right food to encourage: Consider some foods that are similar to the ones that your child already tolerates eg if they like chicken nuggets, try chicken schnitzel and also choose a food to try that is as consistent and familiar as possible.

Step 2 Start at a distance: Present the food away from your child, then move it closer once tolerated.

Step 3 Discover the food together: What are its colours, texture, temperature etc?

Step 4 Get closer: If your child feels confident, they may be able to move the food with a utensil, pick it up with their fingers or touch it to their body (on their arm or leg, for instance) or face. It’s important that all exploration is done in a fun and playful manner as we learn most, and will challenge ourselves most, when we are having fun.

Step 5 Once it feels ok to have a food around the mouth, you might be able to touch or hold it with the lips, then a lick or three seconds on the tongue.

Step 6 Rockets and Spit Cups: Once your child feels comfortable playing and exploring with food around their mouth, it’s time to include rocketing (spitting it out with some force while you yell rocket!) into the bin and using a spit cup. The spit cup is especially helpful as it will allow your child to taste, bite or crunch a food without pressure to swallow it. From there, multiple chews may be possible and eventually a swallow.

Calming Sensory Strategies

Here are some simple yet effective calming strategies to help your kids regulate when overwhelmed:

Music Playing gentle music is soothing and allows the brain to fall back into a gentle pattern.

Other Sounds Waterfalls, soft drumming, nature sounds – try finding them on YouTube.

Lighting Soft lighting – fairy or dimmable night lights.

Mindful Colouring or reading.

Connect with Nature Go for a walk, create a treasure hunt and collect different objects you find or play a game of ISpy.

A mindful walk Listening to the sounds around you, looking at colours, taking in the different smells.

Playing with balloons Keep the balloon off the ground but have them move slowly and gently.

Texture bag Place several small objects in a bag. Have your child reach in and touch an object, one at a time, and describe what they are touching.

Apps To Help Gross Motor Skills

iPad apps don’t have to be just about sitting in front of screen. These apps recommended by Source Kids encourage movement and a chance to practice some key motor skills.

Kids Yogaverse: I Am Love

GONOODLE: Make screen time active with 300+ dance videos, yoga exercises, and mindfulness activities for kids! GoNoodle was developed by a team of seasoned designers, educators, child development specialists, and researchers.

JUMP JUMP FROGGY 2: Get a jump start on physical fitness and fundamental mathematical concepts while exercising body and mind with Flip the Frog and his colourful friends. Your physical motion in the real world controls the action simply hold your device in your hands and jump! The higher you jump, the higher the frog jumps!

DEM DANCING BONES: Learn anatomy while you move and groove together! Dem Dancing Bones is a hilarious take on the well known traditional anatomy song. Your kids will absolutely love the funny dances performed by this cartoon Skeleton named Mr. Bones.

KIDS YOGAVERSE: I AM LOVE: The iPad app teaches 13 poses and breathing techniques set to music with vibrant backdrops. We step onto our magic mat and fly through the ancient lands of Egypt. We are as strong as a mountain, as silly as a Laughing Dove and as playful as a dolphin. Dive deep into the Red Sea to discover indigenous curiosities, like a long-lost sphinx!

SWORKIT KIDS: Within the popular Sworkit workout app there is a free kids workout section with a variety of fun workouts to help get those wiggles and giggles out. With each exercise presented visually, the app guides students through exercise routines focusing on strength, agility, flexibility, and balance, such as doing the crab crawl, squats, or side plank.

SUPER STRETCH YOGA: Move, play and breathe as Super Stretch introduces you to his friends and their yoga poses. Super Stretch is your guide who takes you on your journey. Using storytelling, animation and video examples, kids enjoy making NAMASTE a part of their day.

School Holiday Survival Guide

As the summer holidays approach, this time can be a cause of anxiety for children who are out of routine for 8 weeks as well as their parents and caregivers who may struggle to find things to do.

When you have the added stress of having a child with a disability, activities which other children and their families find fun could have the complete opposite affect due to extra crowd numbers and noise.

Every child is different, so finding the right activity is important. Here are some Adelaide (and surrounds) based activities to consider:

AT HOME

  • Arts and Craft – craft activities, painting, drawing, stickers, chalk
  • Water Play – buckets, cups, boats, balls, paintbrushes
  • Build a Castle – pillows, chairs, table, sheets
  • Create a Reading/Play Nook – move furniture, blankets, pillows, books
  • Sensory Play – shaving foam, play-doh, floof, slime, magnetic sand
  • Gross Motor Play – trampoline, fitball, musical instruments
  • Cooking

FREE COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES

PAID COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES

Helping Special Needs Parents

Caring for a child with special needs is challenging. It can also be thankless, relentless and make parents feel invisible within their friendship groups and families.

The best way to support carers is by making them feel like they are not alone in their struggles. Joining groups that are designed with carers in mind is a good option. I am a big advocate of Carers SA, soon to become the Carer Gateway in April 2020. However, not everyone wants to be a part of a group situation, preferring 1-1 support and familiar people only.

It is important to provide carers with choices about the type of support they need. It might be a peer support group, 1-1 counselling, carer outings or simply family and friend gatherings in supportive environments.

Providing a safe environment for the carer and the person they are caring for will be greatly appreciated and may work to ease the social isolation that many carers feel in their role. Planning inclusive events may require a little extra effort but asking questions of the carer about what would make it a more successful event for them, will go a long way in helping them feel enjoyment and a sense of belonging.

Here are some other practical ways you can help special needs parents.

Music

Listening and playing music has many benefits for our wellbeing, physical health and emotional regulation. It can keep us feeling happy, motivated and ease symptoms of depression.

While the above graphic references classical music, there is power in all types of music if it is enjoyed. Teenagers and small children are often drawn to and enjoy listening to music through YouTube, television, movies and gaming. And while the mode of sharing music is mostly digital or online in the modern world, it is possible to access the classics from previous generations if this is what you enjoy.

It is important to find music that you enjoy and a good place to find new music is to look on the current charts, take note of music you hear in the shows you like and look up songs and albums written and performed by the same artists. You can do this for free on platforms such as YouTube and Spotify. Add some headphones (noise cancelling if you want to remove environmental noise distractions), get listening and enjoy the benefits.