Triggers – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

In Autism, there are a lot of different triggers and even different types of triggers. At the core, a trigger is something that sets the Autism off. In some cases, it may be what initially brings the Autism to light, or… ’causes’ it in children. In other cases, it may be just what sends a child into a furious tantrum. There are also good triggers, which can cause a calming and comforting effect in Autistic people.

Probably the hottest of the heated debate topics is the vaccination trigger. Many parents witness first hand their child’s descent into Autism shortly after getting their MMR vaccinations…. going from a loving and talkative child into a shell of a child that can not speak, make eye contact or play normally. This issue is probably the one hot button topics which actually brings parents into the violent, out of control monsters that they so desperately fight every day to keep their children from becoming. It’s primarily due to large pharmaceutical companies having a hand in making sure that people keep paying for those vaccinations and lining their own pockets. Whether that’s true or not is not really my concern, I’m not here to settle any debates for you. I’m just running down a list of triggers, in this case, the ugly. Not just because of what many people say it can do but because of what it brings parents to do. I’ve even been silenced on one popular Autism website simply because I question both sides, rather than say what they want to hear.

Another hot button topic is the GF/CF diet which doesn’t really bring out the monster in most parents, as I think it’s safe to say that most parents agree that either it works, or simply doesn’t work in their case. Basically, in this case, the gluten/casein can trigger a drug like effect in the brain and send your child into a very disruptive, very violent state of confusion and disobedience. It’s definitely high on the bad scale of triggers.

However, not all triggers have to be bad and that’s the point I’d like to make in this post… there are counter triggers, the good side which can not be ignored. The problem is, they can be harder to find.  I’d like to give you a couple of examples and then give you a very real example from this last week-end.

Many people have said that horses can be very therapeutic towards coping with Autism, in fact, can snap them right out of it while riding. There are even some ‘camps’ set up where Autistic children can spend some time with the horses and learn to ride.  Whether it’s a bond with the animal, the motion of the riding, the feeling of the ride… no one can say for sure, but it’s widely regarded as a great trigger for handling the overwhelming nature of Autism.

If you’ve had a chance to see the Temple Grandin movie, you will recognize the squeeze machine. Temple Grandin, after witnessing a similar device used on cows, created her own device which would simulate a hug without the need to touch anyone. She would use this to calm herself, to steady herself and to handle extremely tense and overwhelming situations.  She has gone on to do studies and found that it works for most people, not all, but most… Autistic or not.

As for this week-end, I’ve come to realize that my son has his own good triggers. First, we took Cameron to visit some family that live on a lake. The moment we got out of our vehicle, Cameron began begging to go for a boat ride. When I say beg, I mean he really begged. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the plan so it didn’t happen until after dinner…. however, it kept him happy just knowing it was there. After we all ate, he got his chance at a boat ride.

He sat down in the boat, excited and eager… as the boat pulled away from the dock and slowly made it’s way into the lake, Cameron turned to his mother and said “ok mom, we can go home now.” It wasn’t that he was scared, it wasn’t that he wanted the ride to end… it was that he was content, 100%, totally, completely… content.  It was as if I had been starving, spent an hour at a buffet and said “ok, I’m done, I can go home now.”

Then we took Cameron swimming, shortly after getting home afterwards, Cameron put his hand on my cheek and said “Dad, you’re my best friend ever”… then the next day, while swimming again, he came over to me and gave me a kiss on my cheek.

I don’t know if you could fully ever understand the depth of that without having an Autistic child yourself, and if you do have an Autistic child… you would surely agree, getting that kind of voluntary, unexpected and completely random positive emotion out of an Autistic child is truly wonderful.

You must look for these times, these triggers, these moments because as important as it is to know what the bad triggers are, it’s equally important to know what the good triggers are. I really don’t want my son to go through the hard times and so I shield him, but I can’t shield him from everything all the time no matter how hard I try.

Ultimately, shielding is good, but limiting. It doesn’t bring happiness, it doesn’t bring contentment, it doesn’t bring all the good things.. it just prevents the bad things. And while important, it won’t get you the hugs, kisses or admissions of being your best friend.

Find those good triggers, find those few things that will make your child truly happy. They may be more rare than they should be but they’re out there… and when your child swims over and gives you a totally random kiss on the cheek after years of rarely getting so much as a hug….  it’ll all be worth it.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not.
I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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