Monday, March 11, 2013

A Little Anxious

Our approach to dealing with Anderson's autism diagnosis has been to focus on staying pretty laid back.  We weren't always this way; during Anderson's younger days, I would expound on my worries about Anderson's quirky behaviors, and Marty would give me a dirty look and say, "He doesn't have autism...", mimicking Arnold Schwarzenegger's "It's not a toomah!" quote in Kindergarten Cop. It evolved from this, to me crying over his hand-flapping and Marty saying, "Hmmm. Well, something isn't quite right, but it's not autism", to finally me handing Marty some research on autism without batting an eye, and him saying, "Yep, that sounds like him!"  Funny how that works, the cycle of grief. Denial, anger, acceptance. And believe me, finding out that your child has any kind of disability involves grieving. That grief represents different things for different people; for me, as harsh as it may sound, it was the death of my dreams of a 'typical' childhood for him.  It was letting go of those societally-influenced images of Anderson as a soccer superstar, an advanced learner, stellar athlete and elite problem-solver. The upside of finally getting through the process and actually taking time to grieve the "what might've been"s is watching the fog and clouds roll away and seeing new dreams emerge. My new dreams for Anderson aren't anything like the old ones, but they offer so much more promise, a bigger reward. The beautiful part of creating these new dreams is that it shows you what is truly special and wonderful about your child.  It's kind of like taking a highlighter and coloring over the most meaningful, thought-provoking, significant parts of your child's personality and character.

The biggest downside of Anderson's personal autism, at this point, is his anxiety. This is the one issue that we cannot seem to figure out how to handle, and unfortunately the one that seems to be getting more significant as time goes on.  He's a worrier, and he gets that honest; I'm definitely a worrier by nature myself. However, as you can probably guess, he doesn't worry about typical things that might be stressful--the things he seems to struggle with are really just part of every day life. For instance, for whatever reason, he worries a lot about the change from day to night.  At least once a day (if not more), he says, "It's not getting dark!". If we don't acknowledge him, he will continue on with, "Hey Mom. It's not getting dark. It's not dark, Mom...Mom, it's not dark yet..."  Sadly, it gets dark every day.  Now, he doesn't have a meltdown or anything when it gets dark, but it is something that clearly weighs heavily on his mind.  Another current source of anxiety is having company in our house. Even if it's someone he loves dearly, like Nana and Papaw, he seems to both enjoy their visit and stress over their presence. This has manifested as him clinging to us, asking us to go in the kitchen with him alone while leaving our company in the living room, wanting THEM to go in other rooms, or in some cases, wanting them to leave altogether.  He can't quite explain WHY he wants people to leave (but I'm hopeful that someday he will..), but he is able to express that he isn't totally comfortable with visitors. Unfortunately for him, we will continue to welcome company in our home. Our hope is that we can find a way to help him cope--we just haven't been successful yet.  The part that is the hardest for me personally is that seeing him feeling so anxious really puts my laid-backness (it wouldn't be one of my blog posts without a made-up word) to the test. It's all fine and good to take everything in stride when things are calm, but watching your child physically struggling with anxiety is pretty gut-wrenching. His heightened anxiety = MY heightened anxiety.  We are working on it.

In the meantime, we're just enjoying time together. Anderson would rather be outside than anywhere else in the world, so the warmer weather means he's a happy camper. So...we play outside, play inside, and deal with the anxiety as it happens. We will get there. In the meantime, there's this.


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