Friday, July 6, 2012

Splishing and Splashing

Sometimes it is not just enough to accomplish a goal.  Sometimes the bigger battle is to overcome the goal all together.  If you are afraid of something, do you feel relief by just facing that fear one time?  Or does success come from facing it over and over, and gradually accepting it?  If you are afraid of heights, and climb the ladder one time just to say you did it, do you feel as if you are not afraid of heights any more?  Do you feel like you have met that challenge once and for all?  Or do you need to climb the ladder over and over?

I think having Autism must be like having to face your worse fears on a daily basis.  And sometimes I think it is like facing them and being pressured to do so by the people they love and trust the most.  Parents, teachers, siblings, friends.  "Come on, you can do it!" "What are you afraid of?" "Just do it one time, you will see!"  I have heard this, and said this myself, many times.  But when I stop and think about it, how trusting would I be?  If I imagine myself to be Autistic, and my whole world is a mess of overstimulation, and my brain is going a mile a minute, and my worst fear is standing in front of me, how would I react?  Personally, one of my worst fears is claustrophobia.  Crowded elevators are the worst, but any crowds do me in.  If I try to imagine a scenerio that I could relate to, I supposed it would be when I am the most tired, waking up after working the midnight shift and going outside in the bright sunshine, and have my kids all talk to me at once.  That is the most overstimulated that I have ever felt.  Now if I imagine all that happening while being in a crowd, I might begin to come close to what Katie feels on an every day basis.  How ready would I be to dive right in, just because someone I love is standing there, encouraging me?

Katie's friend does not like to go down her water slide into her pool.  She loves to swim, but prefers to stay in the shallow end.  In the past, she has gone down the slide after much encouragement, while wearing a life vest or swim rings.  A few weeks ago, she finally attempted to go without any vest or rings on.  Her mom almost started crying because she was so excited.  We whooped and hollered and high fived her.  She was so proud of herself!  But the next time we went over, she refused to do it again.  Her mom was so disappointed, and tried everything to get her down that slide.  They got into quite a dispute about it, and I felt so bad for the mother.  She had her heart set on her daughter going down that slide again.  She felt that if she had done it one time, she must be okay with doing it over and over.  I can totally see why she would feel that.  Wouldn't the girl have realized that since she made it safely once, and she enjoyed it that time, the following attempts would be just as safe and fun?  We felt so helpless watching them go back and forth.  I knew exactly how the mother was feeling.  Sometimes we wish we could just do the task for them, or with them, so that they can see and feel the success, and the relief from the fear. 

There is no way to explain what is going on in the mind of someone with Autism.  There is no rationalization for their thoughts or their actions.  Sometimes we can predict what they will do, based on past experience, but that is not always a definate by any means.  What drives their desires?  What halts their fears?  The best that I have been able to do it to map what sets Katie's meltdowns off, and try to avoid those type of situations.  For Katie it is hunger and being tired and dogs.  When she was younger it was very loud noises.  For others it might be touching something or certain sounds, being in certain situations.  But these things can also change as the children grow.  Some fears remain, some are overcome, and then they can develop new fears along the way.  The biggest thing that I have learned in dealing with Katie and her fears is that there is not a reasonable rationalization that you can talk with her about.  You cannot EXPLAIN to her why her fear is what we might consider "unreasonable".  You cannot EXPLAIN to her that she cannot eat lunch now, even though it is "lunchtime" because she just slept in and ate breakfast an hour ago.  You cannot EXPLAIN to her that the very cute, tiny dog that weighs only 4 pounds is not a threat to her in any way.

When I try to put myself in someone else's shoes, it can really help me learn more about myself, and help me learn how better to interact with Katie.  If I put myself in the other mother's shoes, I can see how different each child with Autism really is.  What their strengths are, might be my daughters greatest weakness.  I can also see the similarities between the girls, and learn from how others handle their Autistic children.  If I put myself in Katie's shoes, I can see that I need to back off and give her some space.  I have to stop and look at how she is feeling at each moment, and how my simple request might be extremely difficult for her.  I have to stop and look at who am I doing this for?  Who is benefitting from these things that I ask her to do?  Am I doing more harm than good?   That is not to say that I need to let her "run the show" and never step out of her comfort zone, but maybe stop and look at the bigger picture and reevaluate how important things really are.  My Adventures in Autism are never in black and white, never cut and dried.  They are in rainbow techinicolor with fireworks and cannonballs.  Sometimes they are overwhelming, but aren't rainbows also beautiful?

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