It is funny but when Elizabeth was younger, the word anxiety was not typically used to describe her moods and emotions. It was more that everything was related to her Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Her resistance to trying new things.
All things were attributed to her disorders.
But as she got older, the word anxiety started to be used in the conversation about her daily life.
She had been in a great deal of therapies at this point, so some of her more major issues with her SPD had lessened, not gone away, but lessened. But what was left was this emotion. So, I think this new word…anxiety fit what she was feeling.
I will admit that it was nice to have a word to use to describe how she felt in life’s new situations. But how do you deal with something that seems very well shared by the world, but because it affects your special needs child needs dealt with in a different manner?
The same child whose disorders complicate the picture.
Such a small word that describes something that is, in our world, so pervasive. Elizabeth can feel anxiety over something that is small, something big, something new, a repeated event or even over something that could happen.
The question we had was how can we best help her cope with this anxiety. Throughout all of her therapies, we got a handle on how to help her with her sensory issues and her dyspraxia. But learning how to help her with day to day anxiety was very new to us.
We learned that she did best with a great deal of talking. That she wanted to know why something happened and if it could happen to her.She wanted to know the details of the new thing we were going to do. The “where, when, why’s” of any and all situations. She wanted to be told these things many times.
We learned that when something bothered her about a previous experience, she would need to talk it through and figure out how to make it better this time. We learned that she would need to talk and that the talking about it could be hard for her.
We have learned a great deal about helping her deal with this anxiety and we are still learning.
It is funny, well not funny/funny but ironic/funny that the disorders that affected her so greatly are actually a bit easier to change and help her with than this ever present anxiety. We could help her as she attempted to touch something sticky or put on shoes but after those things we “mastered” the underlying emotion defined as “anxiety” remained.
She is now 21 years old and is in her college-certificate program. She is currently auditing a class and doing two internships on campus. She is really enjoying it all, minus the ever present anxiety about “sitting in my class.” Yep!, that is right. The need for her to sit in the class is creating anxiety.
Not the work.
The participation part.
It is the sitting part.
So we are talking through this piece with her before each class time. The class meets two times a week. We talk a lot trust me!
In fact, I just got a text from her buddy telling me: “she’s been doing a lot better in class lately and that’s super exciting” So I know the things we are doing are helping her. And I also know that there will be more twists and turns in the road when it comes to her feelings and emotions.
I wanted to share these thoughts because sometimes knowing you are not alone as you try to adjust and help your child helps.
Talking to those who work with your child can help you figure out how best to help your child cope as they grow and the world gets bigger for them. And also trusting yourself to know your child’s needs.
They are working hard on this thing called life. I know how proud of herself Elizabeth is when she accomplishes a new thing or does something she tells me “I have been working pretty hard on”
So I want to be there for her in any way I can as her journey continues.
I hope these words helped someone feel less alone.
I wish everyone a peaceful month.
Michele Gianetti author of “I Believe In You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey” and “Emily’s Sister”