One step forward, two steps back

My son’s school is in a beautiful rural location, situated at the top of a hill overlooking countryside.  The route to my son’s school is no less impressive with almost deserted lanes that wind me away from the busy town in which I live to the village where the school is situated.  There, half secluded amongst the hedgerows, is a battered wooden gate that sits at the top of a drive that slopes down to the school.

The school itself is a higgledy piggledy mess of a 1960′s build but what it lacks in looks is made up by its position, surrounded by lawns that are bordered by a small wood and fields that sweep down to the valley below.  It would be a great spot to sit and admire the view and spend some time ‘daydreaming’ but, as tempting as this is,  any such self indulgency will have to wait.   

Because at the moment I’m up and down to school nearly every day as I try and expose my son to life outside the home and hopefully get him back to school.  It is hard going, as I knew it would be, but at least I have him out of the house.  Not like last time when he could hardly get off the settee.

But even so progress is slow.  I have managed to get my son to the school gate on a few occasions where we have sat in the car, just him and me, looking at the school through the car windows.  He has coped with this quite  well, so much so that I went a stage  further and drove into the school grounds.  Unfortunately the sudden appearance of some students and teachers terrified my son so much that he hid beneath the glove compartment.  Nothing I could do or say would encourage him to look out of the car windows so I drove out of the school grounds  where he felt safe enough to raise his head.  It was a step too far, for the following couple of days my son retreated into the world of fear and autism. 

As disheartening as this was, I have continued to show my son his school, albeit from the safety of the school gate.  Hopefully when he has regained his confidence with this, I shall once again expose him to the playground and once he is comfortable with that, introduce him to the school and the people in it.  And so it will go on until I can get my son settled into school lessons once again.

Well that is my plan, but you know what autism is like, predictably unpredictable.  There is no way of knowing how long it will take for my son to regain his confidence, if at all.

But what I do know is that the world is not going to become a less sociable place, a less human place, so somehow I have to find a way for my son to manage the anxiety he gets as a result of human interaction.

There is no easy way to help him overcome this  – yes medication alleviates the anxiety somewhat but on its own it is not an overnight cure.  As I have learnt from previous experiences, my son has to face his fears or he will never get better.  But how far to push is a tricky one; to push too hard, too quickly can exacerbate the fear and worsen autistic behaviours, to not push at all risks limiting my son to a reclusive life and deeper phobias. 

This is why I think its important to do things slowly and gradually.  By going over and over each step until it becomes easy and familiar to him I can then introduce a new challenge and help him to get used to that, again through repeated exposure.  But with every new challenge there is always a risk that he will regress to an earlier stage as he did a few days ago but eventually we hope to get to a point when we can look back and realise he has made significant progress.   

Unfortunately it feels as though we are a long way from that at the moment.

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13 Responses to One step forward, two steps back

  1. Steph says:

    Now, don’t shoot me down, but wondering if you have tried homeopathy at all? It’s not the sort of thing I’d usually have gone for, and I’m generally a big sceptic, but just lately a few people have given me examples of how it works – ingredients that do seem to calm and ease fears etc. No direct experience myself yet, although I have seen one for my ASD daughter this week, so I’ll let you know what happens. Otherwise just wanted to say you are doing a great job, and the best you can for your son. Don’t forget to take time to de-stress yourself too x

  2. Marita says:

    Small baby steps and it feels like they take forever but somehow you will make it together.

    I admire your patience and understanding of your sons needs.

    Sending you strength to continue :)

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Thankyou for your comment. I really do appreciate all the comments on my blog; its a great form of support.

  3. JuliesMum says:

    I’m not sure if this helps or not, but one of my daughter’s school friends is severely autistic and her team found that if they took my daughter along on trips, the two girls would often do things together that her friend could never manage alone. It doesn’t always work but it has got her over her fear of certain places (they do a lot of exposure work). We think its because she’s a similar age and not an adult. (Because my daughter is used to autism already from home she’s not at all fazed by being used in this way! ). Just wondered if there was any chance of identifying a friend or potential friend for your son and if that would help reduce his anxiety.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Its a really good idea but I’m not sure that this would work for my son at the moment. His biggest problem seems to be people, including his friends at school. He just can’t cope with being around them very well though we are trying to expose him gradually to this. However, he is interacting with some of his friends via the xbox so in a way this is a connection to school. Thanks for sharing your ideas though. Deb x

  4. Galina V says:

    My heart goes to you. You are an amazing mother and an inspiration.
    I hope your son will be able to adjust to school in time.
    We all have our own demons to conquer, how much more distressing it must be for a child on the spectrum. My son goes to school every day, but there are times when for no apparent reason he gets very stressed. They write in his diary that he was volatile, which in plain English means he was a pain in the bum, bless him.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Thank you for your lovely words Galina. It would be great if my son can adjust to school again; he says he wants to go but he is so overwhelmed by fear at the moment. Like your son, mine can become so fearful and anxious for no apparent reason sometimes. Its so hard for them. Deb x

  5. lucy says:

    As small as these steps are, when you think back to the beginning of the year, this is real progress.
    Would the head allow you and your son to take a stroll inside when its empty? Or maybe allow you to take some internal photographs to show him?
    Fear of the unknown is something which stalls progress with so many children.
    I’m so impressed with your patient, yet quiet determination. Keep going, and I know you’ll get there.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      You are right. Where we are now is progress to where we used to be but it is easy to forget this and think about where we should be, ie in school. I have been in discussion with the Educational Welfare Officer and have asked for some photos of the school but I’ve heard nothing from her or the school yet. Another job to trace up.

  6. Blue Sky says:

    “my son has to face his fears or he will never get better”. To me this says it all about everything that you are trying to deal with. I find it quite overwhelming to look at the bigger picture, at these children of ours who have the intelligence to live well, but are totally ‘handicapped’ by their problems – my son will never fulfil his potential if he does not learn to break the anxiety/anger/violence spiral.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Its the same here. Unless my son can deal with his fears and anxieties, life is going to be so restrictive for him. I worry that my son will end up as an adult with mental health problems and who is unable to properly look after himself. I’m trying to do everything I can to help him avoid becoming like this.

  7. MrsBellers says:

    I can’t imagine what a struggle this must be. I have to say I admire your paitence and determination, if he takes after you he won’t go far wrong. I hope that he gets in to school soon and beats another one of his fears. Good luck to you both x

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Thankyou for your lovely comment and best wishes. Its funny but Im not a naturally patient person but having my son has taught me to become patient and appreciate the small things. that motherhood for you, I think, whether you have special needs kids or not.

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