Fear of Change And the Unknown

Autism-Puzzle-PiecesOne of the things we’ve gotten used to as parents of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is schedules.  NHL will get very anxious if he doesn’t know what is coming up.  Ideally, he prefers to have a schedule that he can follow along with.  To a child with Asperger’s, there’s nothing more frightening than the unknown.  Except maybe change.  His routine is comforting.  It is predictable.  There is much about the world that makes no sense to him, but at least he knows that his routine won’t change.  If it is going to change, NHL requires presetting to let him know ahead of time and to prepare for the change.  Changing his schedule on the fly is a recipe for disaster.  It has only been a couple of weeks, but the fixed schedule of middle school seems to be helping NHL.  He knows exactly what classes he has on what days and at what times.  (Yes, he memorized his schedule just a short while after he received it.)

As a parent with Asperger’s Syndrome, I sympathize with NHL’s need for a plan.  I don’t necessarily need a schedule in front of me, or even a concrete sequence of events that will take place, but I like to have some "anchoring" points that I know will happen.  Given that plans can change in an instant, I tend to "anchor" around meals.  No matter what happens, chances are we’ll be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We might shift from a home cooked meal to eating out to taking food in, but it’s still a meal.  The time of the meal might change from noon to one to two thirty, but that meal will happen.

As far as change goes, I’m tolerant of it to some degree.  The more change that happens, though, the more anxious I get about it.  I try to stay positive and expect the best, but change is scary.  The more changes stack up, the more my brain starts filling in the blanks with worst case scenarios.   Of course, the more this happens, the more my stress levels rise.

It seems that recently my life is increasingly filled with uncertainty and change.  My stress levels have been climbing and I’ve been feeling on edge.  There are days when I just want to scream and run for a quiet corner to hide in.  Obviously, I don’t.  I find some way to cope for the moment.  I delay my melt down or distract myself from the big, scary changes.

Perhaps that is why I’ve gone a bit Perler bead crazy lately.  It’s a simple, structured activity.  Place this color bead here and then that colored bead there.  It ties into my geekiness – I’ve made Doctor Who, Harry Potter, superhero, and Star Wars related projects.  Best of all, it gives me a final product relatively quickly – I can take a small Perler bead project from start to completion in an hour.

Still, despite my escapes, change continues to loom large over me and threatens to push my coping skills past their breaking point.

Do you find change and the unknown to be exciting or scary?

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