My family just had to move. We were evicted because, as renters, we are at the mercy of a homeowner who decided she wanted to live in her home. I can’t blame her; I loved it, and it was a great home. Fortunately, we found a better one. It was a big deal though. My son hates change, and this move coincided with the end of school, illness on my part, injury (I sprained my ankle the day we got the eviction notice), and many other little changes. Needless to say, he struggled.
It came down to one day where he had a complete panic attack. It was the last full day of school, we had just moved that weekend, and on the way home our car died. Immediately after, the old house managers called and demanded rent for the month, despite the fact that they had evicted us, and we had already moved. I lost my temper, and basically told them that there was no money to be had. Unfortunately, my son overheard the conversation, and misinterpreted it to mean that we could not pay rent on our new house and would have to move again.
We got home, he settled into his normal routine of playing video games for his time limit, and I calmed down after talking to my husband and some mechanics and basically managing the situation. When I went to check on my son, I found him sick to his stomach, breathing rapidly and crying/gasping while he tried to play. It was heartbreaking. We talked, we tried all the calming methods that we had developed in therapy, but nothing worked. I eventually gave him Benadryl and we went to a friend’s house for dinner where the distraction of other children helped him phase out of it, but it is a situation I hope to never repeat.
Later discussion with his therapist has given us some new tools. She recommended that if he has another panic attack we try a cool washcloth on his neck, and failing that holding ice in his hands. If that doesn’t work, we can put him in a cold bath or shower. Literally cooling the body is supposed to help break the panic cycle and calm you down. It is nice to have more tools. I almost ended up at the ER trying to help my poor, overwrought child cope with adult situations that he never should have to worry about in the first place.
The biggest problem we have is he is an only child, and he is generally always around. The already stressful situation caused us to lose tempers and say things that normally we wouldn’t; and we had insufficient time to prepare him for the move and the changes that it would bring. Ultimately we have learned that we have to be very careful what his little ears hear. He understands a lot and is very smart, but he does not understand like an adult, and may never have that ability. Now that he is older, it is essential that we protect him from conversations like that, and help him learn to manage his anxiety. I would love suggestions for managing anxiety, and change – leave a comment below or visit The Autism Education Site’s Facebook page to share your thoughts!