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.

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