Alex McBride is a 25 year old man living with Fragile X syndrome. His mother Sue nominated him for a Fragile X Association Achievement Award in 2015 in recognition of his hard work and persistence in controlling his behaviour and building his independence.
Alex’s efforts have paid off with him now being able to walk to the local shops alone, check out and pay for items at the supermarket and order his own food in cafes and food courts. Before last year, Alex had never left the house alone.
For many people, these may sound like straight forward activities but for people with Fragile X syndrome, many of whom live with severe anxiety, tasks such as these can be particularly challenging.
According to Alex’s mum Sue, anxiety has always been a major issue for Alex and she is incredibly proud of the work that he has done in learning to manage this himself.
“Alex has learnt to use calming techniques such as breathing exercises and positive thinking to manage his anxiety.
He also uses devices that are loaded with music, meditation and visualisation tracks and his favourite TV shows which he can use when he recognises his anxiety increasing and he needs to escape”, explained Sue.
Most significantly, Alex is now able to recognise when his anxiety levels are rising and take steps to prevent it becoming too bad. This is a major breakthrough as severe and unmanaged anxiety can turn to panic in a heartbeat.
For four days a week, Alex attends a day centre using the fifth day for reading lessons and therapy including some OT to work on fine and gross motor skills, and more recently, monthly psychology sessions. During these sessions, Alex talks about issues that are bothering him and the psychologist offers various coping strategies and at the same time, encourages him to try new things.
“Since he has been working with the psychologist, Alex has agreed to participate in a number of activities, ones which he has been rejecting for the past 3 years,” said a delighted Sue.
“He now enjoys swimming and bowling, and at home, is making great strides with his reading.
He reads newspapers, websites of interest, TV guides and recipes. Cooking is a major interest and he uses the food processor we gave him for Christmas every day”, she said.
As a child, Alex’s parents never forced him to face his fears as a technique to combat anxiety because this just caused extreme anxiety and inappropriate behaviour.
They figured he would tackle new tasks and activities, with help and encouragement when ready.
Now, at age 25, that philosophy has paid dividends as Alex is learning and achieving new things, including practical skills and strategies to help him manage and enjoy his life
It’s a wonderful reminder for us all; you’re never too old to learn.
Thanks to Alex and Sue for sharing his story.