When I go silent it’s typically because what I have on my mind might be hard to write.
You see, parts of this journey aren’t for the public to consume. I try to keep them private, and most of them I do. This one though, it’s tough. Do I hide the truth of our experience or do I share some of it so that other parents know that hey, they are not alone, or that other autistic people know that hey, there are people who don’t demonize?
We’ve entered a stage that when my son melts down, he lashes out. That’s easy to pass off considering his tender young age but it’s what happens. For a child of his size, he is strong. He belted me across the cheek with a small die-cast Thomas train a few days ago and I still bear a bruise and scratch.
This is where awareness becomes key: Understanding what happened, understanding why it happened and of the utmost importance understanding that there is a stark separation between reflexive actions and intentional.
My son did not stand there, contemplate what to do and make the executive decision to bruise someone. If you know J, the idea he could ever do that would just seem as likely as seeing an elephant sprout wings and fly. It’s hard to explain this to people, how episodes like this can happen, because they’ve never had these moments while I have.
I know he was so panicked and so overwhelmed at the moment he did it that he wasn’t seeing me. He was feeling endangered, sad, frightened, angry… He was feeling a confusing and upsetting jumble of emotions. This isn’t speculation, this is the tale as it was written in the moment. It was all there in his sounds, actions and reactions. And I was struck. And it hurt, I won’t lie. I was stunned by the blow… But moments later, he was shoving himself into my arms, burying his head against me and seeking squeezes for comfort.
Panic, fear, dismay, anger, horror, confusion… These are powerful things. We live in a world of overwhelming stimuli if you have any single sensitivity, now imagine being wired so that you have many, while being largely desensitized in other areas. It’s easy for him to get overwhelmed. This is going to happen. He is going to lash out again during the journey from now to adulthood. It’s going to take time, care, love and patience to get him to a point where he learns coping mechanisms that help him to be highly less likely to find himself in such a terrible place.
I don’t want to paint rainbows and fairy tales about our life, but I do want to paint hope. He and his peers deserve that, as do all of us. It’s not an easy road but it is a worthy road, a road that will lead to an amazing journey and one I am keen to see more of. Some days he’ll wear casts from jumping on beds and others, I’ll wear bruises from Thomas trains but it all heals and we’ll both be just fine.