I have been blogging about Cooper for a few years now. Since the beginning I’ve received more emails than I can count from autism parents who have teenagers. The emails always start the same way. They say they have a teenager who was just like Cooper. And they tell me about the diagnosis and the process and the where they are currently in the journey. And then they go onto tell me that their daughter or son started hitting and kicking and exhibiting really aggressive behaviors.
I’ve read enough of these emails to know how they end.
These parents had to make the heartbreaking decision about what to do once they behaviors got to be more than they could handle. Do they keep their child home and hire care? Do they quit their job? Do they home school? Or do they find a ‘home’ or facility that their child can go too.
These emails kill me.
I can’t imagine the weight of that decision. Just thinking about putting Cooper in a facility causes me to tear up. It makes me physically ill. But I told myself I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Cooper had zero aggression. He was sweet and loving. We were safe. I wouldn’t be faced with that decision ever.
Then two weeks ago Cooper started hitting me. Like, really hitting me. Mostly in the face. No matter what I asked him to do I would get a slap to the face or a kick to the stomach. And then it started happening at stores and in front of other people. That’s a game changer. People take notice of a kid hitting their parent. Or hitting their brother in a really aggressive way.
There is no hiding it. Unless of course we hide in our home. Which I try to avoid.
The hitting and kicking are impossible to deal with. I don’t know how to react. Disipline doesn’t work. Hugs don’t work. It’s almost like hitting is who he is now. SCARY.
Here is what I know:
1.) These behaviors happen when I remove him from his comfort zone…whether that be an actual place OR challenge him to do something he doesn’t want to do. For example he ALWAYS hits me at grocery stores. We will be standing in the checkout line and he will hit me in the face. It’s embarrassing and loud and it hurts. He hits me a lot at school drop off as well.
2.) He is rarely hitting to be mean. He is laughing and being silly. In his own way he is probably playing. You can even see the silliness in his face.
3.) Disciplining does nothing.Every time I discipline for hitting it is like the first time. There is no recollection of ‘why’ he shouldn’t hit.
4.) He doesn’t know the difference between giving a loving touch and an aggressive touch. And that is sad. Really sad.
5.) I’m not going to be able to handle him much longer.
I put in a call to his social worker and told him what was happening. He told me about a group that will come into our home and give me ideas on how to combat the behaviors. Sigh. I really thought we could avoid this.
I never pictured a day when Cooper would be aggressive. It’s so new I am hoping it just goes away but…deep down…I know it’s not going too. This is most likely the next phase. Nonverbal kids…teens…people…get frustrated and MUST find a way to communicate. And often it comes out in the form of aggression.