Anxiety is a horrible and invisible enemy. It sneaks up on the victim when they least expect it. It's even worse when the victim is a child who can't comprehend or explain their feelings.
Along with 7q11.23 duplication comes a horrible level of anxiety. For some children, the anxiety is so high that it interferes with their social life and behavior, thus leading to past misdiagnosis of autism.
Snugglebug has this anxiety. On the scale of anxiety connected to 7q11.23 duplication, it is on the lesser end. But, on the scale of a nuero-typical three-year old, it is on the high end.
I cannot predict when the anxiety attacks will occur. I don't even know what to do when they do occur except reassure him that we will get through the situation together.
We had two incidents recently that seem to be similar in circumstance.
First, I took my train enthusiast to see Thomas the Train and ride a life-size train. Upon seeing the train, he squealed in delight and took off running toward the train. He was excited beyond belief. We arrived earlier than our boarding pass time so we had time to kill in the bounce house, etc. But, he wasn't interested! He only wanted to ride the train.
Finally, boarding time arrived, and we stood in line to board the train. But, as we approached the train's entrance, panic set in. I could feel him becoming tense but when the panic set in full force, he took off. He left my side and ran down the gang plank, away from me and the train. Fortunately, we were surrounded by understanding parents who cleared a path for me as I chased after him. I caught him pretty quick and hoisted his thrashing body up and back to our spot in line. The anxiety was just too much for him. When fight or flight overtook him, he chose flight.
Once on the train, he calmed down as I talked him through what was about to happen. He was still tense but seemed a little more composed. He made it through the train ride with flying colors. No more attempts at escape. He even climbed off the train by himself. I have no idea if he enjoyed the train ride. The downside of a non-verbal child is not knowing what they are feeling--Good or Bad.
The second incident was similar to the train. His little pre-school class took their first field trip. The eight students and two teachers were to ride the bus to the local library where they would read stories and sing songs. While we talked about it all weekend, the whole thing was new to Snugglebug and anxiety set in again.
The bus rolled up and the other students boarded gleefully, but Snugglebug had a complete meltdown. He was thrashing and crying. I carried him onto the bus and tried to talk to him, but he wasn't hearing me. I sat with him for a little while till he calmed down and was at least breathing again. I explained over and over again what needed to happen and that they were going to have a lot of fun. I finally slid him into the seat but he began crying once again. As I buckled his seat belt, he cried harder and louder. I fought back the tears that were forming and continued to reassure him.
His anxiety had not subsided when I left the bus and the teacher took my place next to him. I smiled and waved as the bus pulled out of the parking lot, but once it was out of site. I fell apart. Big, nasty, crocodile tears poured down my cheeks as I stood there all alone in the parking lot.
I prayed to God to look after my little boy and comfort him because I couldn't. Climbing into my car, I wiped the tears and cried some more. Moments later, I received a text from his teacher with a not-crying photo of Snugglebug. Before they were around the block, he had stopped crying and was enjoying the view from the bus window. I couldn't tell from the photo if he was happy or not, but at least I knew the anxiety had subsided enough that the tears had stopped.
I was extremely grateful to his teacher for letting me know that he was okay. Thoughtful teachers are a great gift to parents as well as students.
Upon returning from the library, Snugglebug had no issues boarding the bus and was excited to see it pull into the parking lot (all relayed to my by his teacher). Since then, he has asked about riding the bus almost everyday. We may actually consider the bus for summer school. It looks like this fear may be well conquered.