Our journey in the Autism Spectrum

Posts tagged ‘bugs’

Trying and Tiring Anxiety

I’m trying to be understanding.  Compassionate.  Really, I am.  But son of a bitch! Henry’s anxiety seems so irrational, ridiculous even, these past several months!  I feel horribly guilty about this.  More often than not, I am so.tired.of.it!  I lose my patience.  A lot.  I get anxiety about his anxiety.  Just STOP it already!!!

Ok, bug phobia, sure.  I get it.  We’re working on it.  Five years of working on it but still, fine.  Whatever.  Waking up at night with panic attacks is a little bit trying. Sometimes more than a little bit; Henry waking up out of a dead sleep (because we do check on him and KNOW he is, in fact, sleeping!)  saying he can’t sleep and crying and whining and screeching, unable to tell us WHY or WHAT is causing him such distress.  We try to calm him down.  He tries to calm himself down.  We remind him of relaxation exercises he can do.  He has a few YouTube videos that he can go to as well.  We’ve been to a psychologist to help us through this.  It was getting better.  Now it’s not better.  Almost-every-night not better.  He NEEDS to wear one of his dad’s hats to bed.  He MUST have one of my pillows or stuffed animals to sleep with.  (Yes, I have a stuffed rainbow chameleon. Don’t judge.)  We allow him these things, of course.  It does help.  Sometimes.  After what feels like hours of trying to talk him off a ledge.

The “newest” anxiety revolves around waiting for the bus.  For all of his school bus riding life, Henry has always had trouble dealing with the waiting for the bus, the worrying about missing the bus or the bus being late.  We’ve had complete meltdowns in our driveway over this.  Did I mention the bus stop IS our driveway? This school year he seems to be adding another layer to his worry.  This year he not only wants to go outside and wait for the bus 15-20 minutes earlier than he needs to be, but he doesn’t want to go out and wait alone.  On our porch.  With the front door open where Lucy sits on the couch and they can see each other.  He wants one of us out there with him.  Why? Because he’s afraid of flying bugs and now BIRDS.  But, you know, he can’t wait inside because he doesn’t want to miss the bus!!!!  Good gods, please give me strength!

This morning, as I finally aquiesced to sitting in the front room with the door open so we could see each other.  (Since Lucy had an early morning activity and was already at school)  I listened to him and watched him for 10 minutes, talking out loud to himself and pacing, pacing, pacing.  Repeating over and over, “I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.”  All the while walking back and forth on the porch ducking from and swatting at invisible bugs and birds. Now, lest you think I’m so cruel as to sit inside and watch my son suffer through this, please know that he will STILL exhibit these behaviors whether or not Lucy or I are outside with him.  This morning I just could not bring myself to sit out there.  Sitting inside I can still watch him but look away, distract myself from his physical actions and verbalization.  Sitting outside with him, his anxiety just gets on my last nerve.  I’m not a morning person and I’ve barely had one cup of coffee before it’s time for the bus.   And his anxiety gives me anxiety.  Like there is a weight on my chest that I just can’t get rid of.

Perhaps it’s time to go back to the psychologist.  I kind of dread that.  It’s out-of-pocket until our deductible is met. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it?  I mean, I should put a price on my son’s mental health?  Still, it’s something we need to consider. More than the money, of course, I am most worried about anxiety meds being suggested.  Again.  I was really hoping we could get through this with some behavioral techniques and learned coping skills.  Meds can be such a slippery slope…though, maybe he needs that.  I don’t want him to suffer but I know sometimes adding medicines can add to problems with side effects, etc.

Ultimately we will do whatever we need to do to help Henry.  To help him be the best that he can be.  But this morning, well, this morning was downright painful and annoying and I just couldn’t deal.  I’m trying so hard.  Every day I want to help him so badly and I wish more than anything he didn’t have these anxious feelings. Some days though, I’m just tired of it.

 

Gone Fishin’

fishing boy

It started with a dollar store fishing pole,  various plastic sea life, and a cheap blow-up wading pool. Although, we probably should have seen this one coming as Henry has always liked string, ribbon, yarn, rope, basically anything that can be whipped around and/or tied onto something and used to drag, pick up, or tie together. You get the idea.

Henry would place things around on the floor and then hold one of his tow trucks up using the string and hook to try to pick them up. When I asked him about it he said, “I’m fishin’.” He began to “fish” more often with just about anything he could get his hands on that he thought he could get to work. Toys were starting to get “broken” with pieces missing. Eventually I would find those pieces tied to yarn or string and being used at “bait” or a “hook”.  Any toy with a magnetic end was even more prized!

Being that BDC and I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes, it took a bit before we thought of the plastic fishing pole.   It was a hit!  “Duh!”

At one point Henry began asking for an aquarium.  At first I thought how great this was that Henry could identify that perhaps this would be calming for him.  And then I realized…

“Henry, you know that if we get a fish aquarium, you can’t actually ‘fish’ in it.”

“Oh.”

He stopped asking for the aquarium.  The plastic pole and wading pool would have to suffice.

A couple of years ago, one of BDC’s sisters and her husband bought a home on a lovely private lake.  BDC’s family loves to fish and the private dock was perfect for casual fishing.  On one of our rare visits out that way, we introduced Henry and Lucy to reel fishing. (Spelling pun intended. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself).    Given the low threshold for patience, Henry doesn’t always respond well to instruction.  He thinks he knows and he can do it himself.  Then frustration sets in and he relents to some very brief teaching.  Despite having small outbursts regarding bait/flies, casting form, and not catching any fish, Henry seemed to enjoy actual fishing.  (In regard to the reference to “actual fishing”, it should go without saying, “relatively speaking”.)

Back then Henry’s bug issues were not near as bad although the dragon flies and occasional wasp buzzing by was met with an outburst, he was distracted enough to keep at it.   Cast, reel in.  Cast, reel in… did I mention Henry’s impatience and that we were on a small lake?  The bobber scarcely hit the water before he was reeling it back in.

Note to Uncle Kevin and Aunt Lisa:  Your nephew may have potential as a successful trout fisherman if you ever want to take him fly fishing!  Except you’ll have to clear out all of the bugs first.  Good luck with that.

Since the legendary “Cicada Swarm of 2011”, Henry’s fear of bugs has gotten worse every year.  He’s progressed from it being an annoyance to a dislike to an all out panicked phobia.   It’s been a real problem this summer.

This past June, we once again headed out to BDC’s sister’s place.  All Henry and Lucy can talk about is fishing out at Aunt Leslie’s and Uncle Jay’s house!  I was completely prepared for Henry to take one step out the back door, discover a bug, and spend the remainder of our stay inside.  Surprisingly he made it through the yard and down onto the dock with only a few shrieks and episodes of spastic waving of his arms to keep away any bugs; real or perceived.

This time around, both Henry and Lucy were really getting the hang of casting and they were doing a pretty impressive job at it.  Henry even kept fishing after getting a hook caught in his hand!  Luckily for me I was inside at the time and Grant got to deal with that. ~Thanks, babe!  Anyway, Henry got right back in there and kept fishing!  That’s HUGE!  Henry still won’t touch the bait, whether it’s real or artificial and certainly as much as he wants to get close to a caught fish, he can’t get too close.  But I can’t blame him there.  It wasn’t until I was an adult, that I could bait my own hook.  And sometimes I still get a bit squeamish when taking a fish off the hook.  I’m just so proud of Henry that he kept at it even with all the challenges around it that he had to deal with!

I have always enjoyed fishing and I would love for the kids to stay with it.  This could be one of the simple and rare activities that we could all enjoy doing together as a family!  How cool would that be?!?  And it will be interesting to see what Henry does when he actually catches a fish some day!

gone fishin sign

Even Simple Can Be Difficult

[Ed. NoteThis is my first writing since May.  I know.  It’s been too long.  I know.  I’ve written something now.  So, that is that.  If you feel you can get over it, please read on. ~Thank you for your understanding.  It is much appreciated!!!  😉 ]

We’ve been on this autism journey for close to 4 years now.  (Even longer if you count the time before the diagnosis.)  You’d think, at least I think, that we would be better prepared for…you know, anything.  In our case, occasionally sometimes  often, there is not near enough of the preparation.  And it kicks me in the gut every time.

Lucy had a friend, Zach*, over and the kids were playing so well that he stayed for dinner.  On a whim…I know.  See?  There was my first mistake.  Anyway, moving along… On a whim, I thought it would be a nice treat to stop at a near-by sno-cone shack on our way back to Zach’s house.  It’s rare that we do these kinds of things and I really didn’t think about this as being anything other than a typical, fun summer experience.  (Mistake #2 for those who like to keep track.) In the car we told the kids where we were stopping and the news was, of course, well received.  We got our sno-cones with no fuss.  Even their choice of flavors were quickly decided upon.

Because my husband has issues with kids eating shaved ice, covered in sticky syrup, packed high above the rim of a styrofoam cup (or anything else remotely messy) in our van, we would eat outside.  The breeze was lovely enough that it was pleasant outside…if you were sitting still in some shade, eating a deliciously cold treat.  Which was my plan. (Mistake #3, thinking I actually had “a plan”.)

Due to Henry’s recent paralyzing fear of bugs (which seems to be getting progressively worse and which we’ve been battling all summer)  I did a quick scan of the surroundings to scout our options while we waited for our order.  There were only two other patrons sitting on their car on the opposite side of the lot.  I chose well, or so I thought, by picking an umbrella-covered table away from the others that wasn’t at all sticky.  No trash cans or potted, flowering plants were anywhere near-by.  It was actually located on the paved lot right next door to the sno-cone shack.  This meant we had to cross a very short, grassy incline.  Icy treats in hand, we headed that way.  Henry hit the brakes as soon as we got to the grass and refused to go further.  My heart began to sink.  I immediately got a bad feeling about where this was headed.

Grass equates to clover which means bees and other bugs.  I got Lucy and Zach settled at the table while BDC dealt with Henry.  After quite a bit of encouragement he made it to the table.  But he refused to sit.  Henry was in all-out panic-mode, searching the area for flying and crawling bugs.   He was continuously jumping and darting away from “bugs”.    No amount of reasoning or encouragement would stop his outbursts and crying about these perceived bugs.

Now, as someone who also hates bugs, especially when I’m eating, I can tell you that there really were no bugs!  There were none on the table or the on the ground around the table.  Only an occasional fly or dragon-fly-type bug would buzz past well away from us.  Even if you were paying attention, which I most certainly was, there would have seemed to have been no bugs at all.

As a full meltdown ensued, BDC offered to sit in the van with him but he would have to leave his sno-cone at the table.  Whether or not we made the right decision on that, I don’t know. (Probable mistake #4)  But, in this situation we stuck to our guns about not eating these drippy, messy things in the van.   Off they went, with Henry not only upset about the bugs but also having to leave his sno-cone behind.  Yet, he did.

I sat with Lucy and Zach as they enjoyed their sno-cones.  With a lump in my throat I watched Henry’s begin to melt.    I was struggling not to let tears well up in my eyes.  Even going for a summer treat just couldn’t be simple.  And most certainly it was not fun for the little dude.  When I couldn’t take it anymore I sent a text to Grant.

“Is he calm at all?  What do you want to do about his sno-cone?”

At this point, please know that my concern about the sno-cone was nothing to do about it going in the trash.  It was about my boy  missing out on something he loved and had earned.  That is what was breaking my heart.

After a minute or so, I saw the van doors open and I could hear Grant talking to Henry.  He was going to try again.  I know Henry wanted to enjoy his sno-cone,  just like any kid would.  But for him, right now, outside is just so very difficult.  Henry was relatively quiet (I use the word “quiet” loosely here) as he walked back to us but he was nowhere near calm.  At this point he was truly terrified of a bug getting on him or even near him.  I got him to sit next to me and he asked me to hug him and hold him tight.  I promised him I would not let any bug get on him and I would keep them all away.  He got through about 1/2 his dessert but just barely.  It was too much.  He was done and begged to go back to the car.  Grant went with him.  I sat for a few more minutes with Zach and Lucy while they finished up and we soon headed back to the car as well.

Henry was already so much more relaxed back in the van.  But that didn’t make me feel much better.  I question just about every decision we make when it comes to our kids, especially of course, when things don’t go well.   We try, very carefully, to calculate the situations or experiences  where we might want to “expand our Kansas”.   With Henry, we need to push (gently, carefully) to try more things, DO more, experience MORE.  Was it wrong to want to be able to sit outside with our sno-cones?  Should we have let Henry sit inside while the rest of us sat outside?  Should we even have attempted this at all just “on a whim”?   What was I thinking?!?  How could I not have seen the potential disaster in this?  On the other hand… it was just going for a damn sno-cone!

Clearly, this experience was DIFFICULT for Henry.  Painful, even.   Which, of course,  makes it painful for Grant and me.   We want to help him.  It frustrates us when we can’t and it’s maddening that the things we need to help him with seem so small, so simple at times.  And sometimes that can be difficult for me to accept.

*NOTE:  Zach’s family has become good friends of ours over the last year.  Zach has a twin brother with autism.  Through this whole ordeal, Zach went on as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening and continued to behave wonderfully!  We are grateful to have friends like Zach and his whole family!

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