Thursday, April 28, 2016

Extreme Fear and Anxiety Over Storms, How We Helped Our Son Cope.

I learned something new about our son this week!  Okay, I've learned a ton about our kids throughout the years, but this one was big. The last few weeks have been pretty rough for him and therefore, on the rest of us. He is and has been TERRIFIED of storms since he was a tot. As y'all know, I love storms and I've found myself unable to even mention anything about them when our son is around. The mere mention of storms caused immeasurable anxiety attacks for him. Even at school. So, we kept any mention of storms at a bare minimum and telling him that the storms were no big deal, that he'd be okay. With the recent destructive hail storm everything got ten times worse for him. Not only was he NOT okay, but neither was his house and he told us so. Our roof and siding have holes in them, causing water damage to the ceiling, all windows on the north and west sides of our home were blown out, blinds were torn apart, carpets destroyed by water, hail debris and tiny shards of glass that don't come out, etc. The kids bedrooms are unlivable. Due to the large scale devastation to an entire city, the repair is slow moving and could be weeks or months before all is back to normal again. His routine was turned upside down and he doesn't have his small, but safe feeling room right now. Sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a much larger room, brings on anxiety in itself. Each afternoon, he was coming home in panic mode, asking if there were any storms forecasted and if so, what kind. Of course, as most parents would do, I'd sugar coat the forecasts as to not make the anxiety worse. On Tuesday, another severe storm was due to push through our area and knowing it was coming was causing upheaval in our home and at school. Prior to him coming home from school I started researching and getting on message boards to figure out what to do. I learned that with an autistic child you have to be straight forward, honest and don't hold back. No sugar coating. I was told to give him all the information and explain probability and not focus on the chances of tornados or hail hitting us, but on the chances they won't hit us. Yes, there is a chance, but the odds are, they won't. When our son came home, I hesitantly explained everything, allowed him to ask questions and I didn't tell him to not worry. I told him that lots of adults were scared too, not just him. He was upset and did curl up on his mattress in a ball whimpering for a bit, but then, the most incredible things started happening. He started thinking about it, putting the pieces together and understanding. He asked to watch "Wreck it Ralph" to take his mind off of the storms and he did pretty good. When it was over he asked to take a bath! Anyone who knows our son, knows that this has NEVER happened before. He hates bathing! He took a bath, came out and announced he felt much better. When the storm hit, he was nervous, but not like he had been. He now has access to the same weather apps I have and to the National Weather Service website and is learning to read weather maps. This morning he announced there will be more storms possible late tonight and tomorrow, but the probability of tornados and hail are extremely low. Just so you know, THIS IS AMAZING! If y'all knew how bad it's been for this guy over the last few weeks, you'd understand fully. It goes to prove that we can't always protect our kids from the truth. In fact, the opposite happens, we are not protecting them at all, but making it much more difficult to truly understand and causing more anxiety. We live in a world where scary things happen and even our kids have to learn how to cope with those things. Allowing those things to slowly be introduced at the appropriate age and allow for fears to be faced and overcome in the safety of their home, helps them to grow and be strong when they face this world on their own two feet. I'm not saying everything will be perfectly great with weather issues, but it's a HUGE step forward and he's learning to cope with a huge fear and overcome it! I had to share this major accomplishment with you! It goes to show you how difficult life can be for our son, but it also shows how incredibly hard he works at it and how strong he is!!  Btw, if he's around you while you are talking weather, be prepared for a lecture of when the storms will hit, what type of storm it'll be, what the probabilities of the predicted impacts are, etc., LOL!  LOVE THIS BOY!!!

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