Every day I see the headlines. Once in a while I read about an autistic being abused and sob uncontrollably, but I’ve learned over the years it’s just gut-wrenching pain. The headlines say enough; move on.
Thank Goodness our life is different. No one would hurt my son — not this blue-eyed, heart stealer that everyone loves. And then someone did. Suddenly he is not only the autistic kid, he is the one being abused.
I always thought that I’d know, that I’d sense it. Besides, we had a great team. I knew these people, they knew me. Some had LittleOne in their care for years. No one would hurt him, but if they did, I’d know.
To some extent I did sense it. I knew something was wrong. I knew there was a change, but with kids like LittleOne that could be anything from eating gluten to not getting enough daylight in February. How do you tell what causes anything at first?
The worst part is abuse doesn’t look like pain and fear. It didn’t even look like regression. What did it look like? Acting out. Defiance. Breaking long standing rules.
Abuse looks like his worst behavior thrown purposefully in the face of his adults– a challenge.
This is where it all goes woefully wrong. The typical answer to defiance and purposely naughty behavior is discipline. Hitting Mommy lands you in time out. Throwing a toy gets it taken away. Tit for tat. We locked in battle. I was losing control. I was paying for parenting webinars and researching CBD for children who are aggressive. He was screaming and kicking and I was covered in bruises.
New scripts started coming out. “I’m going to pop your leg,” he threatened. He even grabbed his Grammie by the arm and popped her leg twice. This wasn’t an idle threat. It was happening to someone, but I wasn’t sure if he was witnessing corporal punishment or receiving it.
The next script to show up was, “Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.”, in a little voice answered by a yelled, “You SHUT UP!” Again, I didn’t know if it was his script or if he was watching someone else being talked to this way. Whether it was him or not, it made an indelible impression; he relived it again and again for 15 minutes in the shower this morning.
Last week he picked his feeling of the day as sad. He was sad. I sat up all night crying while he slept. What is happening to him?
Then he flinched. He jerked back when I went to grab his hand to stop him from hitting himself. He drew back when his therapist reached to close a curtain. He shrunk back when his teacher reached for the back of his chair.
Finally, he ran the whole script all of it came pouring out. He yelled at others. He yelled at himself, “[LittleOne] that’s enough!” He popped his own leg and yelled, “Clean up!” Over and over I watched him act out yelling at friends, yelling at himself, and hitting himself.
My reading isn’t that this was one chaotic event, but that it was a string of events isolated in time, each perhaps seemingly harmless enough and insignificant, though inappropriate. While I was never made aware of a discipline or behavioral issue, LittleOne was scolded, yelled at and struck — to the point that he ducks his head away from adult hands. I have no doubt he has been hit. No proof, but no doubt.
Over time these little disruptions occurred and he learned that adults aren’t safe. Taken together it’s now coalesced as one thread of uncertainty and fear. Now he is testing each adult — systematically misbehaving and then recoiling from their grasps as he tries to reevaluate. He’s seeing what he gets yelled at for and what he gets hit over. He’s looking for the line that says he is safe.
I don’t even know where that line is. I trusted. I assumed the best until I found out the worst. Even now in the aftermath, nothing is clear. I don’t know who is responsible for specific actions. I have no answers and no one will be held accountable. No one will be held accountable.
Now again I say to him in every way I know how, “Come into our world.” I am Ambassador in Chief for this world outside his imagination – our world. With all my heart I want him to step into our world. I hold out my hand, I offer a fragile security that he and I both now know can be broken.