Autism phobias aren’t that uncommon. Many of them, though, are probably related to sensory issues or desire for sameness in the environment. Bees haunt my son. As you know, you cannot go outside in the Spring and Summer and not encounter bees somewhere. Anything that buzzes becomes a bee to him. Suddenly, he’s covering his ears and screaming that a bee has stung his ear. Nothing stung him, though. He just heard buzzing. He’s afraid he’ll get stung and the buzzing bothers him.
Some of this anxiety we’ve managed by his use of headphones outside in our yard. We have azalea bushes, so the sheer number of bees make it almost unbearable for him. No amount of telling him that the bees just want the pollen seems to help him. He’s watched The Magic School Bus enough to know what bees do and that they collect nectar to make honey. I’ve told him that if he doesn’t bother the bees, they don’t care about him. None of that matters when 15 bees buzz near him, so in our yard, he just wears the headphones.
I totally understand his anxiety. Growing up near the Cliffs of the Neuss, I can recall the sheer terror of the humongous fire ants. They inhabited the woods across the street from my house and the National Park and God help you if you stepped anywhere near one of their mounds. The swarms. Oh, the swarms! One day, my sisters and I went walking in the woods and some ants swarmed my shoes. These ants, known for their viciousness, will bite the Hell out of you and show no mercy. Screaming in terror, I vividly recall kicking off those cheap black shoes and running for it. In my mind, I could see no way of saving my shoes, but I sure as hell could save myself. that heart-pounding terror I felt, no doubt, feels similar to what my son feels every time he hears something buzz by him. Fight or flight. In that moment, I chose flight. My son often chooses the same.
I must admit, I had to concur my fear of bees years ago. It took lots of coaching myself and telling myself to stay calm and still and that they wouldn’t hurt me. I used to run for the hills just like he does. Wasps, though? Wasps are the devil. You can look at their faces and see the evil. No way I’m waiting for them to maliciously attack me. If I had to list 6 things that I feared, it would go as follows:
- Wasps (devil creatures)
- Giant fire ants *shudder*
- Ticks (disease carrying parasites)
- Judgement from others
- Death (it’ll happen one day)
- Driving next to tractor-trailers
I’ve learned to cope with my fears (mostly). My job as an autism mom becomes teaching my son how to cope with his. Which fears are valid (some are) and which do we learn to get past? Autism phobias, because autism itself included patterns of repetitive behavior, become harder to overcome, but not impossible. I mean, last year my son wouldn’t touch a lizard. This year, he not only touched, but held a lizard and now we have a pet gecko. Maybe next year we’ll go outside and he won’t need his headphones