Every day, I see my son with ASD struggle with something new. Whether he encounters surprise thunderstorms, the dreaded fire drills, or broccoli. What seems minor to you and I becomes quite a big deal for him. And let’s be honest. It takes courage to confront the unknown or the uncomfortable and power through it like a boss.
What is courage?
The dictionary defines courage as “the ability to do something that frightens one” or “strength in the face of pain or grief.” My son demonstrates this character trait daily. He comes home and tells me, “Mom, we had a fire drill, and I dealt with it!” You have no idea how much courage that takes him. He used to crawl under furniture, act out, and lose the whole rest of his day to fire drills. Vegetables are another matter entirely. Texturally, they bug him and they don’t taste so great to him. But when he sticks a bit of broccoli in his mouth, bites, chews, and swallows, he’s demonstrated courage. He encountered something that causes him grief, and he showed strength by overcoming it.
Courage doesn’t come easily or all the time, but it’s important to celebrate it when it happens.
I think we struggle as neurotypical people to define some actions as courage for those who are not neurotypical. Does eating a pea qualify as courage? Certainly–if it genuinely causes grief and mental anguish to do so. Does watching television in the livingroom during a thunderstorm qualify as courage? Of course–if normally thunderstorms send your child running for an enclosed space with headphones and a blanket!
Does my son always find the courage to power through? Of course not. He’s human! I find it genuinely frightening to go up to a group of people I don’t know and introduce myself. Sometimes I’m courageous enough to do and sometimes I’m not. My point? We need to cut our ASD children some slack when it comes to pushing them outside of their comfort zone. Push too hard, and you’ve caused a setback. Don’t push hard enough, and you maintain status quo. But you do what you and your child feel comfortable with. Which battle is most important to fight first? The battle of the broccoli or the battle of the bumblebee?
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You can make courage come more easily
Do what you can to make it easy to obtain mastery of goals. Headphones help with noise issues. Weighted lap pads, stuffed animals, or blankets help with security issues. Scented oils can help with many other issues. Don’t expect courage to happen all the time because it won’t and if you expect it, you’ll feel crushed when it doesn’t happen, but rather wait and enjoy the successes. Because the successes are oh so sweet!