The Panic Attack

This is a true story of one of 12 year old Brother’s recent panic attacks. He has several diagnostic “labels” that have been formally used to explain the behaviors and guide treatment: Schizotypal Personality Disorder, Autism with PTSD, and , Generalized Anxiety.

We joined a local fitness club recently. Both AoA kids are old enough to use equipment in the workout area (with adult supervision). They had to take a short orientation class with a trainer in order to be allowed to do this. I signed up and put it on the family calendar. Both kids were fine about doing this.

The time came to go to the center. Both kids were fine. When we arrived, we all walked in together with no problem. We were directed to wait with a few others, until the trainer arrived. Brother took one look at the few people sitting in the waiting area, and began to panic. I asked if he knew the other kids who were there…he didn’t. There were eight people waiting, plus us.

Brother began to repeat over and over,”I can’t do this. I need to go to the car.” He paced back and forth. I tried to reassure him, but it didn’t work. He said he would go to the gym and wait. He walked to the gym…then quickly back to the lobby. “Too many people”, he said. I let him go to the car. I texted him as we waited, offering monetary incentives if he would just come in and try. His anxiety was bigger than his desire for a money treat.

Little AoA did the orientation with the group. It only took about 5 minutes, and consisted of an overview about how to adjust weight machines and operate bikes and treadmills.

I spoke to the trainer about Brother’s anxiety. He offered to do a one on one orientation if he would come back into the building. Little AoA and I went to the car to try to coax him in (did I mention it was pouring down rain?). We explained what the orientation consisted of, and within about five minutes of talking, Brother came back into the building.

The trainer greeted Brother warmly, and went through the orientation. I could see the anxiety leaving Brother, as he started to nod and smile in response to the trainer. It ended with a handshake from the trainer, and verbal praise from me.

I had not thought much about how appreciative I could be for these little victories. Some would say,”big deal, he did something that any kid could do.” Some will never understand the joys and struggles of learning to live with disabling conditions…it is real.


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