Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Autism and phobias

Spider in a web
A phobia is an irrational fear of a specific "thing" or group of "things". For example, arachnophobia is an irrational fear of spiders. A person with this fear, upon seeing a spider, may go into hysterics or run from the room until the spider is removed.

High sensitivities in autism can trigger phobias so far as I have read. It makes sense. And currently my son is having trouble in this area. He is already skittish around animals. If they move towards him, especially before he feels absolutely ready, he will run away or at least move away a few feet. He is the very most afraid of dogs, bees and spiders. This year, with prime bug season going strong, I have seen an amplification of this.

I know that having something buzzing around my face drives my senses crazy. I can't help but do everything I can to get it away from me. So I understand how that must be sending him into a tizzy. Fear of being hurt plays a large role as well as his need for things around him to be predictable. Animals, without a great deal of experience, are not predictable.

We've had two occassions of screaming hysterics with climbing me like a tree in order to escape in just the last 7 days. One was with a small dog that was behind a tree and surprised us. But it was friendly and no one was hurt. The lady who owned it felt terrible. And the other was this morning with a bee outside.

I feel awful about how he must be feeling, but what can I do other than try to coach and comfort? Whenever we meet a nice dog, we try to meet it and get him a positive experience. He wants to, but is afraid. He has had two very bad experiences with small dogs that play into this. Teaching him how to deal with bees is a little harder. Heck, I don't like them myself.

All of this is making it hard for him to enjoy going out to play. The parks are full of flying bugs of all sorts. Dragonflies have been out in clouds over the beaches. Amazing to see actually. But you can't tell him they won't do anything to him. They fly around our heads in that unpredictable fashion and it freaks him out. Even large flies right now, that are hard to discern from bees will get this reaction. That's just how deep this goes.

I just hope I can help him get over this phase and to feeling more confident around animals. No one likes to see their child terrified. How about you? Is your child on the spectrum dealing with phobias?


Casdok said...

Dogs here for us too. My son has ended up in the road or rivers etc to get away from them. These days he can cope if they are on a lead, so progress is being made :)

Heather Babes said...

My T was absolutely terrified of dogs. I do mean absolutely. He had a meltdown when some mean kids in the neighborhood thought it would be great fun to make their pet chahuahua touch him on his back or wherever they could place this teacup breed. Large dogs, small dogs, fenced in, on TV.. didn't matter.

We own two dogs now. Two more are being fostered here. :) It was through fostering dogs that he got over the fear. He is not a huge fan of dogs and still prefers cats, but he no longer FEARS them. Not even "strange" dogs. He won't approach them, of course, out of safety, but he's no longer fearful...

Slow baby steps will make progress... Similar to Casdok said.. he'll "get over it" if he can :)

Kristin said...

I was just looking up phobias and autism and you post came up. Have you had success? My son is currently terrified of tornadoes and does not want to venture outside, even on sunny days.

David Wilde said...

Hi Kristin, yes we have made great headway in his fear of dogs and fear of flooding that he has. How old is your son? It takes time, often a lot of time to get over a fear. Tornadoes represent something that can happen suddenly without control. Lack of control is an autistics worst enemy and hard to work with. Maybe if your son gets into learning about how weather and forecasting works? Show him how radar can show us what is happening or going to happen in the weather. Learning about tornado "season" and safety is a good idea too. Show him weather reports and that even they say that there's no tornado warnings or chances. Show him that you know exactly what to do to be safe in a tornado. Also be sure to check with his therapist or a therapist for ideas in handling his phobia.

Go Boys said...

I also came across your posting after googling autism phobias. My son recently developed a debilitating fear of bees and dragonflies. I'd be interested to hear what you were able to do to help your child deal with his flying bug phobia. Right now we are not able to spend time outside. As soon as he sees a flying insect he starts screaming uncontrollably. Thank you for sharing your experience with this! -Jill

David Wilde said...

Handling phobias, I will make your request a new entry :D I'll even do it right now.