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Autism news: Dealing With Irrational Fears
April 08, 2019

Have you ever had someone try to get you to do something you were afraid to do? Or something you were uncomfortable doing?

I remember the time my husband and I were getting an overstuffed trash can ready to take out to the curb. He wanted me to stand on the contents of the can so we could stuff in as much garbage as possible.

I was scared to death that I would fall. He kept pressing to get me to do it, but could soon see that I wasn’t about to stand on that thing.

I have to give him some credit because he wasn’t asking me to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself.

And that was actually unfortunate. A few months later he stood on the can, only to come crashing down on our country porch!

We were thankful he fell on the wooden porch and remained unscathed. Had he fallen in the other direction, he would have landed on the concrete sidewalk!

It’s important to remember that sometimes our kids also have fears and hang-ups, often irrational ones. And we may be unable to understand why they’re so afraid of whatever it is they are afraid of.

My autistic friend Jack is afraid to play a certain music album. His fear is irrational from my perspective, rooted in paranoia.

But even though in my mind his fears are completely unfounded, I still choose to respect his wishes.

I am quite certain that nothing bad will happen if we play the album. But to Jack, pressuring him to play it would be like asking him to “stand on the trash can.”

Here’s where patience with irrational fears is key. We can learn to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”

Consider also that people with autism suffer from a lot of stress, and any unnecessary pressure could add to their anxiety.

Reassuring them that they don’t have to do whatever they are afraid of doing can ease that stress. (Of course, required tasks such as brushing teeth are an exception. You would need to find a way to make sure those things get done.)

But what do you do when two autistic people (or any two children) have conflicting hangups?

My son with autism gets in a rut and thinks he has to play music albums in a certain order. The album Jack is afraid of playing is somewhere in the lineup. That means at some point he thinks he has to play the album Jack is afraid of playing.

In next week's email I'll tell you how we handle that type of conflict with gentleness and care.

Warm Regards,

Kay Donato

Discover Autism Help, LLC

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