Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Anxiety or Manipulation?

Nick didn’t go to school yesterday. Actually, lately, I feel like it is all I can do to get him to go to school. The reason why I gave him the day off, or let me rephrase that, let him stay home, was because he had a field trip. I clench my teeth at this because I really wanted him to go on this trip. It was to Boston and the State House and then to Castle Island. It would have been a wonderful learning experience. However, he was very nervous about going—for some reason—so I let him miss the event. I hate that he didn’t go, but I didn’t want him to associate a field trip and a fun learning experience with an anxiety attack.

Good mommy or bad mommy?

Sometimes a mom has only a few minutes to make a decision like this one, and sometimes it will be the wrong one, but at least it’s called doing the best job I can.

What really beat me up about this decision was that if I forced him to go he might have had a good time. He’s been on other field trips and they all turned out fine. Not forcing him gives him the option of not doing something that he should do and, thus, not helping him deal to overcome his anxiety during social events.

Now comes in a timely trip to his therapist yesterday afternoon, and she firmly agreed. We actually had a good conversation about when, and when not to avoid situations that cause anxiety. I brought her back to when Nick was in 5th grade and when he had his first anxiety attack. He was so troubled by something that happened in gym class (boys competing to win was, I think, the gist of it) that he would become anxious when he had to go back to gym. Unfortunately, his anxiety peaked to such a level that he hid under his desk at school and brought tears to his teacher's eyes. She called me and we had an emergency meeting with an autism therapist (a doctor who came out on a favor by me) to observe Nick. (This doctor was actually helping me with Meghan at her school at the time.) After spending time observing and talking with Nick, he discovered that when Nick was near the gym (or even near the doorway walking by the gym) he would panic and run as fast as he could away from the door and down the hall. The doctor told me that it was best not to have him attend gym until he was on medication for his anxiety. And medication was an absolute must.

Says who? Says that doctor, his therapist and his shrink…Yup, I got three opinions,
and keeping Nick from attending gym because it was a real trigger for his anxiety—at least until he was on meds—was the right thing to do in this case, because forcing someone to deal with this form of extreme anxiety, before he’s on medication and getting therapy to help work through the problem, could be like pushing him to the point of emotional breakdown.

So, henceforth we welcomed our dear friend, Luvox; the miracle drug that has helped Nick become capable of not only resuming gym class, but becoming a better participant in his classroom, to boot.

Note: not a drug pusher here, but, demonstrably, Nick needed to take the edge off of a debilitating anxiety disorder.

Now back to yesterday’s problem; I should have told him that he had to go on the field trip and not have allowed him to, uh-hum, manipulate me just because he didn’t want to go. And as for this newfound skill of manipulation, I must say: good for him, he’s becoming a creative thinker!! (Hey, looking for the positive in every situation, right??) But I must add to his credit, he doesn’t always avoid going on field trips or other events; in fact, he had a field trip last week and went along just fine. And he hasn’t missed an excess number of school days, either. Perhaps more than I would have liked him to miss this spring, but it seems that he has developed some additional anxiety issues that we are currently helping him work through. So I give him praise for dealing with the burden of anxiety, which I hope will help him become a stronger person in his adult life.

Here, I must give kudos to his teacher for helping me with his anxiety issues this spring! She’s been providing me with email updates and helpful ideas in alleviating his anxiety, including finding a quiet place for him to work when necessary, and even supplied him with a box of foam earplugs for when school becomes too loud.

And hey, it does take a village to raise a kid, especially a kid with ASD!!

Understanding anxiety click here.


Kate said...

I still remember a 5th grade field trip to the Songo River Queen, a boat on the lake... nearby.... I begged my mom not to make me go...she let me stay home, I'm still thankful to this day.
When you don't have the social skills or sensory integration skills to deal with something like that... then it would be pure hell and only make you feel worse about yourself and give you traumatic memories that make you feel more afraid of everything.
We did a similar thing on my prom night years later in HS which I did go to....why, I have no idea.... it was terrible....thus reinforcing my decision that doing anything with large groups of peers is just really NOT a good idea..
The only thing I remember was the chocolate covered strawberries tho....they were good.

In short: sensory issues + social deficits do not a fun field trip make. My opinion anyway.

DOn't know if your son has an aide but that might have helped me, dont know.


Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Kate's got some good points! And I agree, it is hard when you're trying to make a decision over what to enforce and what not to. All we can do is the best we can do in every situation. I think you're handling it as well as possible.

Holly Nappi Collins said...

Thanks for your feedback, Kate. It's good to hear first-hand from someone who can identify a bit more.

And thanks, Tanya, for your input!!

Shea's Mom said...

I don't think you made the wrong decision. I mean, the year is almost over, field trips can be stressful, don't even talk to me about gym!, so he had a chill day. And, he would rather be home with you then any where else in the world.

There are always more educational experiences, when he is open to them.

Anonymous said...

I say sometimes anxiety can get worse when you readily give in to so many things you don't want to(or "can't you think)do. I have seen this with older people who just COULDN'T this or that, and the more they didn't the more they couldn't. And let's face it, manipulation is a widely used tool in this world, with some realizing they do it & some not. ~Mary

babs said...

What an insightful finale! We all work together to share info too, and each of us has valuable input. No one person is "the" expert for your child!