This is a core strategy. Every time Lyra feels fear in the presence of a trigger, and acts on her fear (or freezes, which is a kind of act), the groove in her brain that equates the trigger with a scary monster is deepened. I used to underestimate the importance of “management”. Now, I see it as a lifesaver — because I see its effect. “Avoidance” is not the best word. I don’t remove Lyra from a world in which scooters exist, for instance. It’s more about finding the ideal distance. When there is enough space between Lyra and her triggers, she is able to learn to tolerate them (ideally, enjoy!). My struggle with garbage trucks is that I’ve not yet found a consistently good distance. In the meantime, I try to set up experiences where she is at least coping with the sound — not panicking.
Plan (updated August 2016)
- Do not take her outside on garbage day except to eliminate and to play ball in the garden.
- On garbage collection days, close windows and play music.
- Avoid busy times (e.g., school run and bus route) for walks. For example, go for walks at 10 am and 5 pm on weekdays; earlier on weekends.
- If scooters approach, cross the road. Use “let’s go” to turn her around if a bus or truck approaches.
- Try various products (e.g., doggles) to see if they take the edge off her anxiety.
- Ensure she always has access to a “safe haven” (my office, our bedroom).