Letting Go of the Anger with Autism

Recently, my son came home from school…
I have been in counseling (for various reasons)
and know that anger is just a reaction
or response to pain, hurt, and sadness. Anger
is an emotion I subconsciously went to
in the past before realizing that underneath
all those outbursts and fits of rage was heartbreak I
never dealt with. We all can agree, dealing with sadness
is not the most pleasurable of things one can
do. I was an ostrich with my head in the sand, and I
did ostrich very well. I still catch myself at times suppressing
sadness; I can push it down so deep the
rabbit hole can’t even touch it. Anger is my cue that
I haven’t dealt with my hurt, pain, and violation of
boundaries. I am not an expert on how to divert anger,
but I do try and resist the urges when they come

So, when my son entered the car that day, I recognized
that familiar emotion—anger—and I gently
asked about his day and why he felt angry. I quickly
saw his eyes water up and his hands begin to move
around like crazy; hand movement is a cue that he is
really trying to share something. The hand gestures
help him to connect the dots, feel, and give him comfort.
“Buddy, what’s up?”
In tears, he responded, “I’m just tired of being picked
on! I don’t want to be different; I want to be at a
school with people who are like me.”
Of course, I instantly felt sadness and pain for my son;
I had to tell myself, “Don’t go to the angry place Ally—
feel this pain with him.” The mama bear in me wanted
to talk (yell) to those kids and give them a little piece
of my mind. Maybe I would throw a few dishes for effect…but dishes weren’t around because I was in the

So maybe I would yell in anger at God…at autism
spectrum disorder (ASD)…at life. Yelling and giving a
piece of my mind to the youngsters harassing my kid
wouldn’t solve anything. After all, those kids are kids…
they are just trying to navigate this “topsy-turvy”
life like we are.  My heart was sad for them, too.

This anger swelling up in my son was tough to see
because I knew it came from a place of hurt. He was
experiencing a strong human emotion and he would
have to learn, like me, how to channel the anger and
come to a place of acceptance. It makes me want to
cry just thinking how he fights daily to keep up with
the Joneses (mainstream) kids both academically
and socially. When he came into the car angry he had
a revelation. My little boy recognized he was not like
the “others.” He was able to see the unfairness in his
“otherness” label, and he came up with his own solution:
being with people like himself. If I could keep
him in a bubble, I would, but that wouldn’t help him
in his adult life. My son, who happens to have a disability,
must come to a place of acceptance of who he
is and follow the practice not comparing himself to
others. The hard part is…it could take years to learn…
and truthfully, labels persist even into adulthood.

Comparing oneself to others is an invitation to misery.
Comparing ourselves to others undermines our
impacts in the world, and it diminishes our abilities to be our individual selves. Comparison of ourselves
to others will cause unhappiness. Period. In my son’s
case, I witnessed how the comparison prison can
take root at such an early age when children start
seeing how they measure up to unspoken standards
and they naturally long for something better or different
for themselves. A person doesn’t really think
about their “otherness” unless they are on the losing
side. In one scientific study, young children could detect
abnormalities in a peer’s behavior in less than
four minutes. This unspoken measurement indicates
that abnormal behavior is subconsciously known
and young children are not often equipped with the
most “humane” response to situations when they are
around peers who are unlike the group. When you
are a parent of a child who is sent out of the pack because
he/she is “different,” you carry that pain every
day, and you grow in faith that someday they will see
that broken crayons still color perfectly. Further, if
you don’t have a child with a disability, for the love of
all that is Holy, please teach your children tolerance!

After my boy expressed his thoughts, I was instinctively
full of anger for him.
Ouch! Sting!
Instead of going on a rant of shared anger with my
son, my mouth knew nothing else but to speak words
of life and encouragement over him.

We are all different,
We are all unique,
We are all crafted by a crafter (creator),
We are all loved.
“Buddy, just be yourself, son, because I think ‘yourself’
is pretty darn amazing.”

That pep talk isn’t going to solve all of his problems.
It isn’t going to make his peers miraculously stop bullying
him or suddenly begin to include him in their
games and activities. But my boy, and every person,
needs to hear that they are valuable and loveable,
and someday God will send them the right people
to be in their lives.

We can waste our lives by telling ourselves lies like
“I’m not valuable because I have weaknesses” (biological,
physical, or mental); “I am not worthy of acceptance
because I am not the best;” “I am not loveable
because I struggle.” It is a common thing we do without
even knowing it.

Listening to those lies, though,
means we believe we are undeserving of happiness,
and that is not the truth. The prison of comparison
occurs when we believe those crazy lies and then
look at others with envy or desire to possess what
“they” have to get away from our suffering.

The comparison
game goes on and on like a rollercoaster ride
with continuous loopty-loops. If you struggle with
this like my son and I do, there is an answer. It is simple:
get off that rollercoaster ride! Imagine grabbing
those keys right next to you; imagine putting them
in the lock of your comparison cage; imagine turning
the key and freeing yourself! You are the only person
who has the power to free yourself. The keys are right
there. We cannot be happy if we compare ourselves
to others. That comparison game is for the birds.

I like to think in life we all are dealt a “Get Out of Jail
Free” card, similar to the one from the game Monopoly
to use when something is taking away our happiness and joy.

The first replacement thought for
and placing that card confidently down on the table.
(Drop mic.)
When my son and I returned home that day, I went
into our downstairs closet and grabbed the Monopoly
game. Of course, because we are the “topsy-turvy-Tapleys”
the game wasn’t in orderly fashion,
and looked like a tornado hit it. But after a few
moments of searching, I found that special “Get Out
of Jail free” card, walked to my son’s “safe place” and
asked him:
“Are you ready to set yourself free?”
It doesn’t happen overnight, but we are replacing
TRUTH for lies, and I sure wish I had started as young
as my son.

Culled from Autism Parenting Magazine

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