It was about a year ago that I figured out that mr. L has anxiety. He doesn’t “suffer” from it and doesn’t identify as it. My son just has it and my husband and I just help him through it. At that time while I was researching the chance of someone with autism having anxiety and finding out that it’s pretty common made sense. I’m not saying they all do, I’m just saying that I’ve read that it’s common and if you know how difficult it can be for someone with autism to just get through an average day, it’s not hard to see it being a thing.
People on the spectrum often like routines, they don’t always read people well, or situations easily, and I know my son personally has a hard time identifying facial expressions. Mr. L is really good at reading a room, and when he is paying attention he can feel how a person is feeling, but if you show him a few pictures of faces and ask him to point out the surprised face, he doesn’t have a clear understanding of what you are looking for. Because of these things among many others I can see how life could be stressful.
It took a few weeks for me to piece together that my son had anxiety and it actually started when his younger brother was playing a video game and mr. L was actively watching and started crying saying that his heart hurt. He had switched like a light switch from jumping up and down excitedly, flapping his arms and laughing to sitting on a chair scared clutching his chest.
Obviously I was worried! Heart attack? Panic attack? Other attack I didn’t know about? I ran to him and felt his head, it was hot. I felt his chest to check his breathing and not only was his breath ragged, his heart was flying like a humming bird’s. Before gathering up my 3 kids and rushing to an ER I wanted to get a level head first and see if things could settle on their own. So I gave him a drink of water, turned off the video game and had him lay on the couch.
10 min later he didn’t seem any better and was crying. So I FaceTimed his favorite person who happened to be a paramedic and asked for her opinion. She studied him through her phone, asked questions and decided that if I could have him lay down in his bedroom with the light off for 30 min checking on him constantly and his heart didn’t settle that I needed to take him in. Luckily he did settle down, but it was a scary moment for sure.
The following day as mr. L was getting ready for school he started complaining about his heart hurting again. I told his teachers about the recent development, made a dr appointment for him for later that week, and started him on fiber gummies. After collaborating with his dr, his aunt, my husband, and the school psychologist I decided it was anxiety and had his teacher, ABA therapist, school psychologist, and school social worker come together with coping skills to help him.
Up until recently he has been doing well, eating his fiber gummies and practicing taking a break from things that start to stir him up. So how do I know his anxiety is showing up again?
- Heart racing
- Loudly refusing to do his chores
- Yelling at his siblings and has swatted at his little sister
I saw this coming though, his routine has been tossed out the window, he hasn’t heard from his teacher, he can’t go to the library, and since his siblings are crazy little tornadoes he has had a hard time getting personal space. Basically he wants some social distancing and his siblings are refusing to comply.
Little things I can do to help with his anxiety is to keep my own stress levels in check, he can feel the room, so I need to do my best to keep the peace. Along with keeping the peace means I need to keep my offspring from escalating their own quarrels. I don’t like to hover as a parent, but I do try to step in before the hitting or screaming starts.
The hardest thing to keep moving forward is his ability to follow directions, especially when it’s a non-preferred activity like sitting at the dinner table or putting his clothes away. So I’ve been practicing what I learned during all those parent training sessions about how to take a small step back, encourage the smallest positive steps with cheering and preferred foods for things like standing up, and walking to the correct room, even if he needs to be gently, physically moved.
I’ve lessened expectations around our home like pjs all day, longer screen time, and less chores. But I’m keeping some daily routines like clean underwear, brushing teeth, learning something new every day, reading together and keeping bedtimes. I’m not telling others that they need to do these things, each family should do what is best for them during this weird virus time. These things just seem to be keeping mr. L’s heart beat calm, his tears at bay, and his volume below a scream.
In general our days are calm, and our kids are just being kids cooped up in our townhouse. But keeping on top of things like stress and anxiety is important to keep my family sane and mostly in good spirits.
How is your mental health doing? Do you know anyone with anxiety? What are they doing to stay calm during these crazy days? Tell us about it in the comments 😊 and please remember to like and share ✌️