I'm not going to lie. This is an uncomfortable subject. As parents of kids with autism, bipolar disorder, sensory processing disorder or other special needs, we sometimes feel like failures. We're embarrassed that we don't know how to control our child. Well I have good news, there is help! This problem is more common than we thought, but there is a reluctance to talk about it. We struggled with our son's aggression for many heartbreaking years, but I've learned a lot along the way!
The first time my son hurt me, he was in fourth grade. He punched me in the cheek. I was in complete shock. Once he boarded the school bus for his special education school, I cried my eyes out, not only from the emotional pain, but also for how I started to imagine his future.
Although I'm a woman of faith, I immediately started creating a bleak future for my son. Would he end up in jail, an institution, or lose other freedoms? After my crying spell eased, I immediately went to God in prayer, desperate prayer. After a short time, I started to feel peace and comfort. God promises that He has a hope and a prosperous future planned out for our children (Jeremiah 29:11). Now I could begin to reason out a good plan, for the short term and for my son's future.
I pondered this scene of aggression and prayed for wisdom. Replaying the sequence of events, I remembered I had loudly ordered my son out of the car (we had just dropped off his brother at his school) to prepare for the arrival of his school bus. When he didn't comply, I got close to him to unlock his seat belt. That's when he slugged me. Now it made perfect sense. My voice was raised in frustration and I leaned too close into his territory. I frightened him. Suddenly in his fight or flight stress mode, he reacted with a neurological protective response. (See my March 8th blog, "Meltdown or Temper Tantrum?")
For future scenarios, I needed to learn how to teach Sean to comply without sending him into the fear zone. I needed to remember the importance of communicating with a peaceful voice giving him physical space. I also needed to remember to give him two choices. When you give your child a choice, you empower him. I could have asked, "Would you like to help choose your goody for your lunch now, or would you like to pick out your favorite jacket to wear to school?" These choices motivate him to get out of the car and continue getting ready for his school departure while teaching him thinking skills.
In the earlier days of raising Sean, I was reactive, instead of being proactive. I didn't have plans set in place for different scenarios. Over time I would be wiser. If you would like to learn some fantastic methods for how to help your child be compliant and happier without shame or blame, check out Debra Ann Afarian's resource: HBCC (Helping the Behaviorally Challenging Child) located on my Resources page under "Therapy." You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. You can also visit the website at www.hbcc.us. Their philosophy is that "children lack the skill not the will to behave well". At an HBCC group, you will learn how to teach your at-risk kids the skills they need to succeed!
Over the years, Sean would occasionally get aggressive with me. If he didn't calm down after 30 minutes, while safely waiting behind my locked bedroom door I would call for police assistance. They would transport him on a "5150" to the local psychiatric hospital emergency room. We would need to stay with him until a bed would be available. This usually took anywhere from two to three hours. The wait time has increased over the years. Now that he is in a sheltered home (Adult Family Home), the police transport him to the local ER and wait with him until an ER bed is available. He is then alone until a bed becomes available inside the psychiatric ward.
We are Sean's Conservators. Although he is an adult, we have the legal right to confer with the psychiatrist and determine any possible medication changes. Be aware that these psychiatric hospitals will often take your child/adult completely off all their medications and begin a new regimen. As their parent (before age 18), you can demand that your child stay on all medications until you confer directly with the psychiatrist. No medication should be stopped suddenly, but this is their usual method.
What have I learned over the years? When Sean is entering the anxiety stage, if I use peaceful communication, give him space, transition time and choices, we can usually avoid confrontations. Sometimes he is simply needing food or medication. If I find myself starting to tense up during a time of stressful communication, I immediately start to pray. I then feel more peaceful and am able to communicate more effectively. This ushers in a more peaceful child and mother!
I hope this was helpful. It's a subject we moms do not like to talk about. Not every special needs child has aggression. My son's brain was injured from his brain tumor as a baby. He will always struggle with behavioral issues. But with my training, consistency and a solid routine, we enjoy longer periods of peace. A chapter in my upcoming book, "The Song of My Hope" deals with our stressful, but sometimes comical, interactions with the police over the years.
We'll see you next Friday at Sparkling Hope. I hope you will join me! www.sparklinghope.net