Tsunami of Autism
Every year we know that the 4th of July will come with autism and a side of fireworks. Every year we know that our youngest daughter is still autistic – it isn’t like it will ever ‘go away.’ So, what’s the problem? Well, our daughter, along with many other autistic children is scared of loud noises and of bright lights. Fireworks are pretty much the tsunami of noise and light combined.
We Can’t Control Fireworks
So, why are we talking about this now? Only a few days after the 4th? Well, a good friend of mine is struggling with some problems right now. Like many of us, there is likely much about that problem that she cannot control. The same can be said for our 4th of July adventures. We cannot control our youngest daughter’s autism or the sound of the fireworks or the brightness. There are options that we do control. Our family could not attend the fireworks. We could rob our other three children of the experience. Our family could dwell on the upcoming event for days or weeks. We could pray over and over that God would let her enjoy them just the one time.
We Don’t Dwell on Autism
However, our family is the type that feels those things you dwell on you bring more of into your life. We are going to fireworks. That is all, no need to dwell or consider other options. She is going to not enjoy much or all of the experience. It might rain. It might be cold. We all could pee our pants waiting in line to go to the port-a-potties. Lots of things could happen.
What-if-this or What-if-that
We often imagine how our youngest daughter might feel. If we talked about all the terrible things we were afraid of. If we talked about all the what-if this or what-if-that – not only is she already anxious and scared, but we are fueling it with all our anxieties.
There ISN’T a Solution to Autism
So, what is the solution? Hey, guess what guys — there ISN’T one. You can’t solve for this. So, there are a few things we can do. First, we can presume competence. That means that just because she had a hard time one year ago, or every year for the last six years – we will not assume this year will be terrible. Second, we will control what we can control. We will bring things for her to hold, we will hold her and snuggle her if she needs, we will support her anyway we can: blankets, headphones, toys, hugs … whatever we can do that has the confines of her being there with her family. Third, we will not dwell on the things we cannot change. We lift those up to prayers and know that we cannot change the unchangeable.
Wow, This is Beautiful
This year was like many other years. Our little one was very scared. Zoe told us with her best words that she didn’t want to go. My sweetie said she didn’t like the sound. My daughter said the noises hurt. She said the lights were too bright. Yet, she stayed with her family. My angel was and is so brave! She hid under the blanket on my lap with my hands over her ears for nearly all of the fireworks. Zoe could hear her little brother laughing. She could here her older sister telling her she would be okay. Then, for only a few minutes at the end, she peeked her sweet little face out from under the blanket, squinted her eyes from the bright light, and she whispered, “Wow, this is beautiful.” She watched about a minute more, then retreated back to her hiding place.
Frankly, She Is Not The Problem – Autism Is
This year was not like all the others. We stopped focusing on the problem, as frankly she is not a problem. First of all, our family started to focus on what we could control, but not those things we could not. We did not project our anxiety on to our dear daughter or ruin the fun of our other three children. All three of our kiddos showed up to support their sweet sister. And like almost every day of her life she showed up, brave. She showed up to be part of our family. She showed up to tell us “Wow, this is beautiful.”
Be Brave, Be Very Very Brave
Gosh, I cannot imagine how brave she really must be. To know you are afraid. In addition, to not always have the words to say you are afraid, but to do it anyway – EVERY SINGLE DAY. Therefore friends, if I can leave you with anything today – stop dwelling on problems (then the focus is the problem, not the solution), presume competence (or presume a good outcome), control what you can, do not try to control what you cannot, and be brave – be very very brave and assume you will get to see the beauty that was once hidden by your fears. Afterall, my five year old can do it. I am sure you can as well.