True Freedom on the Fourth ~ An Autism Story

Old Glory. Flag by Beach

{Photo Credit}

Yesterday I shared with you (though belatedly) some of the highlights of our Fourth of July.

Today I want to share with you perhaps the biggest highlight.

Freedom for me and freedom for my son.

For those of you who are not closely acquainted with Asperger’s Syndrome, it is technically a form of autism in which those who are afflicted are high-functioning.  My oldest has Asperger’s.

Asperger’s Syndrome has a number of identifying characteristics about it, but one of them is that those with Asperger’s typically suffer from anxiety issues that can be severe.

My son’s have been, and often continue to be, quite severe.

This year, on the Fourth, however, we saw some great steps towards growth and freedom from these anxieties.  And I, in turn, gained some freedom as well.

Three Fears Conquered (or at least, faced)

My son has suffered over the years from three “phobias”.  The object of those phobias are:

  • clowns
  • feathers
  • fireworks

Since it was the Fourth, and one of the carnivals we planned to go to was on a lake (with plenty of ducks in it) and had a balloon-making clown, you can see why the day could have been a complete disaster.

But it wasn’t.

My son confronted all three of his fears in one day — with great courage.

1.  The Clown

Balloon Clown

(Younger brother)

For some reason, I didn’t even think about the clown until it was too late.  Or so I thought.

There he was in all his made-up glory, making balloons for the kids.

I took a deep breath.

To my surprise, who volunteered to wait in line with his younger brother to get a balloon?  The child who years ago would have been petrified to even look at the heavily-painted, multi-colored wig-donning man.

My son later told me that clowns weren’t such a big deal anymore :-).

2.  Feathers

Feather Fear Anxiety{Photo Credit}

The feather anxiety has been a big one throughout the years.  Over the years, we’ve:

  • left for home suddenly after driving long distances only to find the beach covered with feathers
  • managed high levels of anxiety when down-filled pillows leaked teeny feathers (or pieces) in our home
  • avoided the chickens at county fairs (for obvious reasons)

This year, we hung out after the carnival for a while, and then my oldest noticed some feathers.  This time, however, he just complained a bit in a sort of anxious voice and then — that was it :-).

3.  Fireworks

Fireworks Photography(My photo :-))

Considering the last item in the list, you can only imagine how the anxiety level in our home tends to skyrocket (pun intended) as we near the month of July.  And moreso as the Fourth draws near.

Our plan was for us all to go and listen to the pre-fireworks music show and then for my oldest to ride his bike home with Dad.  But even that proved to be a tall order.  Anxiety built as the night wore on and they ended up leaving later than planned.

We hadn’t anticipated the action on the way home.  My husband told me he felt like they were two soldiers biking through a war zone!  People were setting off, you guessed it….firecrackers and worse.

Somehow, though the rest of the night was filled with anxiety at multiple levels, our son rode home bravely without having a panic attack, though it wasn’t entirely pleasant.

I admit, I was somewhat embarrassed about the whole thing and was dreading coming home to the stress that would inevitably be waiting for me as the stray “works” continued into the night.

However, thanks to the encouragement of my friends, I came home later with my youngest and told my son how proud we were of him that he met so many challenges that day and did so with courage.

Two phobias down (at least subdued) — and one to go.  Maybe it won’t ever “go”, but I am so proud of him.

Celebrating the positive, especially with one’s children, can often make all the difference.

We all stayed up much later than usual, but it was a peaceful night as we celebrated freedom.

For our country.  For a boy from his fears.

And for a mom learning to celebrate victories.

Comments

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  1. Great job, little man! That’s wonderful. To be making such huge progress at that young age I think is a testimony to how well your family supports him in his struggles and celebrates his accomplishments with encouragement. Learning to cope with anxiety for Aspie kiddos can be so tough. I’m an ABA specialist and have worked with kids twice your son’s age who would have struggled a great deal more with the scenarios you wrote about here. Congrats to you and your son for having such an empowering day full of victories! :)

  2. Great photos!

  3. my son has Asperger’s too. He’s always been ok with fireworks (for some reason), but hates other loud noises – vacuum, blender, sirens, etc. However, he’s always had a few of people in any kind of costume. Whenever we are walking somewhere there is someone like that, he cowers behind me until we, or they, pass. The fact that he is, at this moment, outside playing with his sister and her friend, is a major testament to how much he’s grown over the last two years. He wouldn’t even leave my side back then. Some victories are so sweet – even when they aren’t yours!

    • We have had the same growth issues regarding playing with others as well. We have tried so many things (supplements, dietary changes, etc.) that it is hard to know what has helped, but he used to not leave our side either. Now right after church he goes off and plays with kids so readily that I have to remind him to tell me where he is going :-)! Play still doesn’t always come easily but it is so much better than before. Thanks for sharing!

  4. i found your blog from gratituesday. i set here reading this with tears in my eyes. for you see in the last month my son was invited to a birthday party. he went (i stayed) and he was there for 3.5 hours really playing with the boys and having fun and he looked like he fit right in. i wanted to cry the whole time he was there.
    right now as i type this he is at boyscout summer camp. i cannot believe it. he wanted to go, that is a big thing. he did not try to get himself in trouble so he would not have to go. oh i need to dig into your blog this evening. thank you so much for your openeness

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and for your words of encouragement. I struggled over whether or not to write this. I worry about being too vulnerable / with safety issues / with wondering if anyone would really care to know about my failures and small successes. But I really can’t say enough how much it touched me to think of how much I have not focused on the positives in our walk w/ Asperger’s. Every day is a trial beyond what I ever thought I would face. And yet, if I choose to see it, every day is more of a blessing than I ever thought I would have.

      I hope to “see” you around here more.

  5. That’s wonderful!

  6. As the mother of a child with classic autism, I loved this post. Kudos to your son for facing some of his phobias!

  7. My son used to fear pumpkins,large bodies of water,(due to the fear of humpback and beluga whales)and the open space at our local mall; which I couldn’t get him to make even a small step into from ages 2.5 till 4. I know to well…Now he loves both….and never thinks twice about going to the mall….It’s best to not force them I found this out the hard way(relatives advice to throw them into their fears)….I just eased him in…slowly…lol or he might fall apart…..I’m happy to say it can get better…I don’t have to worry how he may react when we go someplace new! Diet and prayer helped him out alot!…great post….

  8. OMG I can so relate! for sooooooooooo many years we have just dealt with the fears and just lately both of my sons were diagnosed, one is so afraid to sleep in his bedroom it is not funny. the other just kind of rolles with the punches for now.

  9. Christine duffley says:

    Thank you for posting. Time has a way to bring about change and gives us hope for today’s struggles. Great News!!

  10. So many times we think we are having a bad day or feeling sorry for ourselves. Stories like yours put a smile on my face and things in perspective.

    Great post and thanks for sharing at the hearth and soul hop.

  11. What a wonderful post. I am so proud of your son for taking on those fears all in one day!