I know, I say that a lot. I meander on about routines and rituals and control issues. I talk about avoiding the dreaded surprise almost at all costs, as though it was the big bad monster in the closet.
That’s because it is.
For someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, a bad surprise is pretty much the worst thing that can happen. It’s so completely devastating that the person involved can fall apart right in front of your eyes. Pure brain-freezing panic, followed by meltdowns… it’s so unpleasant – frankly horrible – that he or she will go to incredible lengths to avoid being surprised.
And no, this is not limited to children.
For those of you out there with AS loved ones, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve experienced it. For those of you with AS, it’s a nightmare you live with and know far more about than I do.
At this point, I could go on about brains working differently. About different EEG’s, and brain function. It’s fascinating stuff, but I’m not expert on it, and frankly do not know why this particular difference in our brains exists. I just know that it does.
So… eliminating surprise becomes a top priority.
And really, if we felt that way – totally destroyed to the point of tears and panic – we’d avoid surprise, too. It’s only natural. How many of us choose to live with snakes or spiders? How about bees (shiver)? Take showers after watching Psycho? Or leave our closets gaping open at night?
With children, it’s a little different. They have very little control over their daily occurrences. They haven’t the power to organize their lives into boxes of what won’t be done, and what will be done.
Their parents do.
Every time we go somewhere new, for example, we go over what will be happening. We lay it all out there: the good, the bad, and the ugly. If it’s traumatic enough – say, first trip to the dentist or doctor or somesuch – I’ll even buy a book on the subject (or google it, since my son’s older now).
If I was about to be abducted by friendly aliens, for instance, I think I’d like to know what would happen.
Even if some of it was bad (the cafeteria food on UFO’s… well, it tastes like dog food. FYI), just a bit of preparedness would prevent so very much panic and feelings of helplessness. It’s kind of like that. And no, we won’t go into bad aliens… because while my parenting skills may sometimes desert me, I never really turn into a bad alien.
All right, since we’re on the topic of poor parenting… I’ll confess to one of my son’s first dental appointments.
At that time, I wasn’t as experienced with Asperger’s Syndrome. It hadn’t yet begun to make as much sense to me, I hadn’t read as much on it, and a lot of the dots were still unconnected.
So I brought my son in without telling him a thing about it, assuming that the dentist would fill him in.
To make a long – and awful – story short, screaming and tears were involved, and we were told to look into pediatric dentistry.
Next visit, you better believe he knew what would happen beforehand, and was at least familiar with the idea of dental instruments. And no, we didn’t have to resort to a pediatric dentist (fabulous idea, but our insurance doesn’t cover them).
Sometimes, we fear revealing what will happen ahead of time, because we think it will actually increase tension.
But no, being abducted by aliens is already pretty terrifying.
Of course, it’s scary at first: “Ok, you’re about to be abducted by aliens (flash of terror). But it’ll be okay. They’ll wave their tentacles around and make glooping noises. Every once in a while, a mechanical sound like a drill will break in, but it won’t actually do anything.”
Oh, here’s a book on Friendly Alien Abduction And You.
A lot less terrifying, right?
Information is our friend. Learning ahead of time about an experience can mean the difference between panic and meltdowns or calm acceptance. 😉