We’re planning on a trip to Disney World in the spring. Given that the Mini is a chip off the old block (Daddy), he has sensory aversions to big crowds, so we’re trying our best to prepare him as the date nears. For now, we’ve told him the basics. We’re taking a trip in the car and we’re going to go to Disney World to see Buzz Lightyear and Woody. But the conversation somehow took a turn south…er… souther, when the Mini started asking questions.
Him: Are there tigers there?
Me:..? Um, yes, in the Animal Kingdom
Him: Can I pet the tigers?
Me: No, baby, they’re in cages, behind glass.
Him: Do they bite?
Me: Well, yes, if you were able to pet…
Him: I don’t want to go to Disney World, I’m scared.
Me: (inner voice) *Holy, mother of fuck? How the hell did we derail…?* Well, there’s a really cool place where you can learn about science, called Epcot, and you can ride in a giant golf ball.
Him: I don’t want to learn about science, I don’t want the tigers to bite me.
Me: *exhales* Well, you know, we don’t have to talk about this now. We can show you pictures and talk to Grandma, she LOVES Disney World. And nothing ever bit her while she was there.
Him: No, I don’t want to go.
Somehow, we went from briefly explaining, to him having full blown anxiety over tigers. And thinking these tigers walk around Disney World willy nilly, just biting preschoolers.
When we had the Mini evaluated, the developmental psychologist/ nurse practioner had said that he would most likely lose his PDD-NOS diagnosis, and that most likely, it would manifest as anxiety as he got older. I had a hard time envisioning my carefree child, who seems to not pay attention to his surroundings, with an anxiety issue, but if there’s anything I’ve learned with kids, it’s to expect the unexpected. As he gets older, I’m more convinced that he isn’t truly on the spectrum, but he’s got a processing disorder, be it language, or auditory. Either way, it doesn’t matter.
But sure enough, the anxiety has started to rear its ugly head. Part of this is age. They’re learning real fears now. The closet door has to be closed. The hallway light needs to be on. There are things that he’s become afraid of. It’s heartbreaking to watch, and discrediting those fears, makes them seem as if they’re not important. They’re important to him. They’re based on his own limited life experience.
My problem is trying to help prepare him and ease the fear on going to visit the Happiest Place On Earth. We just keep talking about it, complete with jazz hands and confetti. I don’t think he’s convinced.