Wednesday, May 11, 2022

I had a conversation with my son Caleb today. Caleb has high functioning Autism, ADHD and Anxiety. One of his biggest struggles is to find the words to explain something, let alone getting the words to come out of his mouth making sense.

For a couple of months or more whenever I've asked him how school went he would tell me little things about the drama or sadly, the bullying. But he's also been saying that during the day some things, in his words, "... feel so confused." I've tried to figure out what he means by "confused." Especially since he's been able to get across that there's a spiritual element involved in the confusion. 

Today I found myself able to take on the question and try to understand what in the world was happening inside of him. 

I was able to get from him that the confusion dealt with thoughts and feelings. So with that I tried to figure out if he was dealing with "Intrusive Thoughts." A term used in the psychology world to explain a symptom that often occurs when your body is dealing with a chemical imbalance or other mental health issues. These thoughts will suddenly intrude without warning. Usually extremely negative thoughts or memories, and some people will even hear what seems like a voice(s) telling them random things. He was able to tell me that that was not what he was experiencing. I was grateful. But we still needed to dig further. 

Next, I talked to him about another psychology term called "Flooding." I shared with him that this is actually something that I've experienced for years as a symptom of anxiety. And I have gradually come to realize it for what it is. I explained to him that sometimes I'll randomly remember something, usually a conversation or interaction with  a person that I regret or am embarrassed about. Something that roots in me feeling inferior. I'll have a flood of emotion that quickly comes; rolls through, and for me the words Angry - Sad - Mad - actually sound off in my mind. And then the moment will roll away until the next time. Unresolved but not weighing heavily for very long. He said he could definitely relate to that experience. But that wasn't the "confusion" that we were trying to put words to.

I wish I could remember exactly how it happened, and what he said. But finally as we talked, Caleb was able to say the words he needed to say to help us figure things out. He said that it's not really a chaotic feeling. But happens more when he has choices to make throughout the day.  That he is overwhelmed with confusion on what he should do. What the Right choice is. He said that he couldn't figure out what was his thoughts vs. the Holy Ghost.

I was so thrilled that finally his tongue was loosed and his mind cleared enough to be able to put words to his "confusion." 

The first thing I did was ask him to give me an example. He told me that today he had to quickly make the decision whether to go out and play soccer or to go to the Wellness Center to relax and check on a friend. He chose to go play soccer and ended up getting a ball thrown at his back. Sadly, something that has happened in the past. 

Now for the lesson: He and I named it "The Tool Belt" analogy.  The first thing I cleared up and helped him understand was that the Holy Ghost isn't going to tell you what to eat for breakfast. Meaning, God wants us to learn to make our own decisions. Next, I gave him a formula to follow to help him make decisions. Something to put in his tool belt to help during the day.  Mind you, people with autism often need a plan. A rule to follow. I told him to pull from past experiences as often as possible. So, with soccer, he can think back and ask himself what percentage of the time he Loves playing soccer at school. How often does he feel light, joy, and illumination while playing. Then compare that answer with the opposite choice. And obviously, the best decision is to Choose Light. Because Light is from God. 

This conversation seems so simple as I read over what I've written. It proves how hard it is for kids with special needs to make sense of this crazy world. And also, how hard it is for us to help these precious ones to reach their potential. I'm so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ that gives me a foundation to pull from as I try to guide my children. I would feel so lost without Him. ☀️

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