Monday, 11 April 2016

Turning fears into fancies with autism



Like many people with autism, Anthony has long been scared of fireworks. It's common for many kids including our neuro-typical daughter to be scared of the loud blasts and bangs that accompany the beautiful lights on the night sky. Some children with autism are sensitive to sounds, you may see them covering their ears when you vacuum or near busy roads. But our house is loud all the time and both our boys are very visually stimulated so we thought fireworks might be something they could enjoy.

Anthony is one of the 75% of people with autism who is verbal. This means that, unlike his brother, he can try to say when something is upsetting him. Enabling him to describe how he is feeling is part of the our job as autism parents and we do our best to calm Anthony's anxieties and help him understand and communicate how he is feeling. Anthony has in the past been able to tell us that it's the sudden bangs, effectively the unpredictability of the loud noises of fireworks, that scares him.

It's been a busy few weeks for the family and Anthony in particular has discovered new things about himself.

Firstly, he has discovered he has autism and ADHD. We wrote a social story for Anthony that explained why he found some things easy, some things difficult and that he and we can help him when he feels he is finding something hard or confusing.

Secondly, he has discovered that he doesn't fear fireworks anymore, he absolutely loves them!

How did that happen?

Well, sort of because his first discovery. Understanding that he has autism and ADHD has empowered Anthony in a sort if way. He has started to understand that there are reasons for the way he feels and that he and we can help him when he feels like this.

We went one of the Disney theme parks over the holidays with a large family contingent. Trust me, it is no small feat taking five kids all under 8, with the oldest three having multiples of autism, ADHD and hyper-mobility amongst them. That's why we went with six adults!  All of those going would love to see the end of day light parade, show and fireworks by the Disney Castle. As autism mummy I think, bright lights, loud noises, crowded spaces, losing kids in the dark.... to name but a few.  But sometimes you just have a feeling that actually this could work and you prepare what you can and then go for it.

The biggest preparation was with Anthony. With his new found, "I have autism and ADHD" knowledge  we were able to help Anthony focus on a few things prior to the fireworks. First was how he could help himself, by not focusing on his fear. Once Anthony had told us about being scared a few times we then asked him to try and not talk about it after that because talking about it made him feel more anxious, like dwelling on a problem. He would still start to mention it many times of course and then stop himself.  Secondly, we asked him to trust us that just as his social story said, we would help him if he found it difficult and we could leave at any time if he really wanted to.

Of course, when the lights went low and the music started, Anthony was still extremely nervous, but after a few bangs with a loving adult by his side he was mesmerised. Disney do a fantastic light and firework display. They incorporate a story to music and use characters that the children know and love. Anthony was totally enthralled. He was jumping around and squealing with excitement like Tigger himself. His knowledge and trust resulted in a moment of anxiety becoming and experience of joy, for us all.

An new version of this post as a photo story has been published with Tinboxtravller, award winning travel bog on the on TravelTimehop series.

Links
Our blog - It's time to tell him about his autism
Our blog - Preparing for fireworks
Our blog - My Joy of his acceptance - What Anthony thinks about having autism
Our blog - Issues when Anthony's always aloud

22 comments:

  1. That's brilliant, that he can now express himself AND understand his own feelings! Our girl is not a fan of fireworks on Fireworks night at all, but we have managed a display on holiday once... sometimes it's all about the rest of the environment etc. Worth never saying never, for sure! :) #spectrumsunday

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    1. Things can change for sure but we are always prepared for that not being the case too!

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  2. how lovely that he was able to overcome his fear and enjoy the fireworks, what an amazing feeling that must have been x

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  3. What a lovely post, that's great that he was able to communicate with you to first understand and then overcome the fear. It sounds like you all had a well deserved good time! #BloggerClubUK

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    1. It's always such a relief when everyone manages to have a good time!

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  4. Well done Anthony, that's so wonderful for him #SSAA

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  5. Oh this is a wonderful post! So glad he was able to understand himself and get to enjoy the show. #SpectrumSunday

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    1. Yep, think it was the understanding himself that was the key

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  6. What a brilliant post, I am so glad he is beginning to find a way to express his anxiety. Social stories are such a brilliant way to prepare autistic children aren't they!? TY for linking up with #FamilyFun 🌸

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    1. Yes, social stories suddenly clicked with Anthony. He loves that they are just for him and likes to keep them quite personal.

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  7. what a lovely post. well done Anthony #familyfun x

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  8. I am so glad that he enjoyed it. I think social stories are such a great way to introduce change, great way to explain about Autism as well though :) #passthesauce

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    1. Social stories have worked really well for us in lots of areas recently. I agree!

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  9. Well done, Anthony! How wonderful that the social stories have helped him on focusing on how he can help himself. It must have been an amazing moment. Thanks or sharing with #PasstheSauce

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  10. That's fantastic, our little ones surprise us daily don't they?! Well done you for giving it a go too, I think it is sometimes easy to just toss something aside after the first experience is a negative one. I'm also really pleased that understanding he has autism has been a positive experience for you all too. Thank you for linking up to #spectrumsunday lovely, hope you join me again this week xx

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  11. Oh, that's so wonderful he could enjoy it, and really enjoy it and get excited! My brother had autism and also had a fear of fireworks for a long time before he realised he loved them! Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Kaye xo

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  12. Wow isn't that amazing! It's really great that Anthony could understand autism & realize how to counteract the fear. What a clever boy! Thanks so much for linking up with us at #bloggerclubuk x

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  13. Brill, well done Anthony for both understanding his autism & working out how to counteract his fear. Congrats on having a family holiday too, it's not always easy is it.
    Thanks for linking up with #SSAmazingAchievements

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    1. I was super anxious about the holiday but it turned out to be the best one ever!

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