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I activated their threat response

Jun 01, 2022

Yesterday, we had someone come to our home to carry out an appraisal on the house (valuing the home).

When I got out of bed, the house was absolutely trashed. Our home is pretty much always messy first thing in the morning, due to the sheer exhaustion we adults feel the night before.

We let the dishes wait until the morning, washing, tidying, etc so we can sit and have a break and watch some trashie television, etc.

For this reason, it was up to me, being the only adult at home, to fly through the house like a tornado getting everything tidied again. 

I decided I’d begin nice and early, up at 6am. I’d have a coffee and then get started. I had plans in my head of where I’d begin.

But lo and behold, this Mama had overlooked that the night before, I had agreed to watch the sunrise out on the decking with a little one. And a little PDAer *never* forgets.

Said little person made their way out to me, excited, their little eyes half shut, their beautiful little head full of long auburn waves over their face. We cuddled, and as we cuddled they sensed my panic.

“Mum, why do you feel like you’re angry or stressed?” they asked. 

Aurgh, when an autistic child calls us out on the energy we give off, trying to cover it up only sends the message that the child is not to rely on their intuition.

“Yes, baby” I responded, “I’d forgotten we were watching the sunrise together and I’m panicking because I need to also clean the house before someone arrives this morning.”

Their little shoulders dropped, but on we went, out onto the decking to watch the sun come up.

It was cold. Far too cold for little feet. We returned inside. It was decided the bedroom gave a better view. Nope, the living room window. Ahh, nope. Let’s just sit at the window. 

As the panic already existing sat just beneath the surface for me, the instructions and movement and things to listen to and look at and respond to were becoming too much. I beckoned myself to remain in the moment and to allow my little one to enjoy the full experience..

“Come on Kristy, ease up mate. Chill. The cleaning can wait. It’s okay. Look at the sunrise, it’s amazing..” I told myself over and over.

But the issue wasn’t that I needed to clean. It was that I had a plan. I had a mentally logged plan and it had been interrupted. Eeek. A big trigger for this autistic adult.

I started to stim, arms straight down by my sides and hands shaking furiously. It’s my stress stim and my family knows it.

My little one started to co-dysregulate and before we knew it, we were both not okay. 

As a result of this, I became even more dysregulated. “Damn it!” I told myself, “I held it together so long!” but the game was up.

The little one retreated to their room and I moved on with the cleaning. I cleaned furiously, panicked, stressed, sweating, tense, sweary and completely out of control stressed. This is what happens when I am forced to push beyond the PDA boundary. Sometimes I can push through and other times I cannot. But because the boundary may completely close at any time and I might not be able to continue to move forward, I find myself in a panic.

Before too long, another little person needed breakfast among other things. I flew into action like a bull at a gate, almost robotic on full speed. Very little human Kristy there at all.

I noticed the time and a support worker was arriving soon, but little PDAer number one could not move from their bed. They couldn’t eat breakfast, they couldn’t dress themselves and were in a little ball of threat response activated.

Good one Mum.

Due to the overwhelm and anxiety in my little one, I was also unable to brush their hair as they were at their threshold. 

I stopped myself. I listened to my inner knowing, it had been shouting at me all along.

“..this won’t end well, this won’t end well..”

“I’m sorry sweetheart. I’m so sorry…” I took a deep breath in and asked how we might regulate together.

We hugged. We hugged hard as I told them how sorry I was and explained that it wasn’t their fault and how I understand what it’s like to be around someone who is heightened. 

It’s bloody awful. Traumatic.

By the time our support worker arrived, my beautiful little one was having quiet time as they regulated. I wanted to cry and melt down, but held back. 

We regrouped, they had a wonderful morning and I got on with things, knowing that next time, I’d make a conscious effort to learn and do differently.

The appraiser turned up, the house wasn’t perfect. It was good enough and he was here for ten minutes. 

Not worth my child’s sense of safety. Not worth the compromise to my wellbeing.

Parents, particularly autistic parents: parenting is tough at times. 

Being consistently regulated isn’t realistic for us, I know. But working on ourselves is. 

It takes so much practise. So much consciousness. So much self awareness. So much planning ahead of time. So much unlearning. So much undoing. So much trauma addressing. So much reparenting. So many tears. So much crappy self talk. 

This is why I bang on about parents having to ‘do the work’. 

This is why I bang on about parents needing to love and care for ourselves. 

Our dysregulation, our fear, our trauma, our stress, our panic is the number one direct route to activating our childrens’ central nervous system into threat response, disabling them.

Then, we make more work for ourselves and create more stress for ourselves and place more demands onto ourselves in having to correct, repair, resolve.


Nothing is worth that. NOTHING.


Love to you. And love to me. This isn’t easy, but it’s imperative.


We are worth this work, and so are our children.




KF x


Image is of a child with their back to the camera. They’re walking away from the front door of their home.


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