We had a great time at the mall Friday, but Chloe was consumed with anxiety. Chloe likes the excitement of getting in the truck or car and going somewhere, but the anxiety takes over once we are there. She takes a few minutes to get out of the vehicle and then she walks like she is walking through wet cement. Once we get where we are going she covers her ears or buries her head in my side. Sometimes she starts scripting familiar songs or movie lines to comfort herself. Once she is more comfortable she takes off!!
Anxiety isn’t a sign of Autism, but is an outward symptom of dealing with the disorder. There are many signs Chloe and other children/people show when they are anxious. Chloe chews her nails, paces back and forth, hand flapping, crying, yelling out, covering her ears and rocking , just to name a few. There is also being easily agitated , aggressive towards herself or others (Chloe usually hurts herself) and extreme OCD. Once these symptoms begin a meltdown will soon follow. When we are at home it is easier to deal with anxiety and other symptoms, but when out in public IT IS HARD and emotional. People stare and point at her or us. It was easier when I could carry her away. Now she is 8 1/2 years old and 94 lbs, so I can no longer physically remove her from the situation.
We have implemented a few strategies for Chloe. We take a backpack with comfort items and sensory toys. Snacks and water is super important. We have chewy snacks or suckers for oral stimulation. I have a wrist leash in case we are somewhere with a lot of people. It attaches from my wrist to hers. She tends to bolt when there are more people around.
It is important to find what works for Chloe. We never know when she may have a panic attack or meltdown. It is very important to prepare her for all outings. We tell her where we are going, what she will see and hear. I always let her know if there will be children there. We have tried different medications, but they make her a zombie or more aggressive. I have anxiety myself and know how tough it is to deal with. I can, however, talk to someone about what I am feeling. Chloe doesn’t have this ability. So all we can do is be Chloe’s safe place, love her, and never give up.
So when you see a child out in public upset or throwing a huge fit don’t judge them. You don’t know if that child has Autism or an Anxiety disorder. Be Kind and understanding.