Friday, April 29, 2011

Kids Will Be Kids and Then There's Autism

When I was 5 years old, I bit a girl on the bus.  Let's say her name was Ann.  She was really shy and had droopy cheeks.  And one day on our way from school I leaned over and bit her cheek - hard.  The next day Ann's mother and two older brothers were at the bus waiting to confront me and tell my mother.  Ann's cheek was purple and blue.  My mother was furious.  I got smacked in the face right there on the corner of Britton and Gleane.  And much worse when my mother decided my punishment was to stay home with her.  The next day when I returned to school, my mother sent a note to my teacher - telling her what I did to poor little Ann.  And I was put in a corner with a dunce cap.  It was after all the late 70s, early 80s.

So in a way I get when people try to comfort me and say "kids will be kids"  or "all kids do that."  But usually there kid isn't like my kid.  And I wonder if corporal punishment and humiliation would work on The Boy.  Probably not.  Not that it's even a option.  I'm just saying...

The Boy is having a hard time lately.  5 SEITs since January.  We're currently waiting for SEIT #6.  Spring Break and going to the baby sitters.  The break in routine is starting to take its toll.  And he doesn't have the language or cognitive ability to articulate the frustration he may be feeling.  

Tonight I got home and checked The Boy's notebook.  Today he threw an object at a staff member's face.  When redirected, he urinated on himself - even though he's potty trained.  Earlier this week, he punched a classmate in the eye and he pushed another.  He never used to do these things.  These are behaviors that have increased since the disruption in home-bases services.  And I need to get him back on track.  But I don't know how.  

I'm worried about September, when he starts a new school.  What will that change bring?  Will the behaviors get worse?  And will we have the support to help him?

Yes.  All kids go through a stage where they hit, kick, throw and bite. Yes it's typical.  But when our kids do it - it's different.  Where is the line between behaviors associated with autism and age appropriate behavior?  Is there a line?  Or is it invisible like The Boy's disability.  Because I can't discuss it with The Boy.  He can't talk to me about what he's feeling.  I mean, I try.  But does he get it?  Is he listening?  Is he angry?  Sad?  Does he miss SEIT #1?  I don't know.   I ask him questions.  But he begins to stim and I get jargon or scripted speech in return.    

This is the feeling The Boy posted on his wall calendar: "Today I Feel Sad."  And if it's true, if that is how he's feeling.  I have no idea why.  


  1. The one thing that I learned early in our Autistic journey is that behavior is a form of communication.

    Once this sunk in, I began to see their behaviors differently. The more extreme the behavior, the more there was to figure out. But once I did figure it out, made the adjustments that were needed, the behavior stopped.

    We are currently going through this with our second son. And it's hard. His verbal skills are just starting to emerge. And we've got some tools here on board to help. (therapy swing, etc). But when he's angry, it's a guessing game. One that is far more difficult to figure out than working with an infant. I can't just change the diaper, feed him or rock him to sleep to figure it all out.

    Comparing our kids to other kids is like doing a 24 piece puzzle vs a 500 piece puzzle.

  2. Hi Lisa,

    It is only recently that my son, PDD-NOS, 5 1/2 years old, has been able to tell us what he is feeling. The challenge is, sometimes he cannot tell us why ... just that he is "sad" (that's the hardest one). He can tell me that he is "angry" if his sister takes his toy (this, in itself is a huge accomplishment for him). I posted a story "Unloved" on my blog about my son's understanding, or lack thereof, of expressing and understanding feelings.

    I think that if you son put the sad face on, this is what he is feeling (just from my experience with my son). My son got like this (not so long ago and quite frequently) because he could not articulate what he wanted to say. He would react like your son, he would avoid looking at me, turn away or start rhyming off something he heard on TV or a movie. It frustrated him immensely and he would eventually start to cry. The good news is, as Austin's speech has improved, this rarely happens anymore. I stood where you do now and thought that the day would never come that my son would tell me these things. I believe that your son will develop to be able to tell you these things too ... time is the only factor.

    My son hit someone back the other day, he would never have done this even six months ago, but I think he has had enough bullying. He was corrected and told it is not nice to hit and I have not heard anything more about it. I totally get what you are saying ... our kids are not treated equally and when they hit or hit back, people figure it is somehow due to Autism. All kids hit at one time or another. My "typical" three year old daughter is much more of a hitter than my son ever was, or is. I think it is sad that people react even harsher to our kids on the spectrum. Shows that they just don't "get it"!

    Sending you all the best! *HUGS* Heather

  3. Wow, I have no advice, but I sure hope it gets better! I have great difficulty getting my son to communicate with us, especially about feelings. Typically, all he'll talk about is LEGOs and when he's upset he'll rarely tell us why. It's hard.

    And sometimes I wonder if kids just feel sad for no real reason. I mean, I know I do all the time. I'll be blue and not even know why, so surely kids could be the same way?

  4. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I believe this behavior is his form of communication. He's obviously feeling something that he can't articulate. It is a riddle. And I hate that I can't figure it out.

    I am hoping to have BCBA therapist in the house soon - we need more support right now and I'm worried about September.

    Just when I think I have things figured out, I realize - No, I don't.

    That boy, I tell ya - he sure does keep me on my toes :_


AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.