Friday, February 6, 2009

When the common cold causes common problems

Meghan has a common cold, therefore she is experiencing SIB (self injurious behavior) and assaultive behavior – not uncommon for Meghan and not uncommon for a lot of kids with autism. As some may know from your own autistic children, SIBs are hand biting, hair pulling, and some kids are even prone to head banging. Meghan has never done the latter, but hand biting is very common for her; so common that she sports a dry skin rash on her hand – a consequential blemish and a sign of a repetitive SIB problem.

As her mother it is never easy to hear that she has exhibited these behaviors, and, unfortunately, it seems just about every other week I’m told by her school contact teacher that she has exhibited SIBs – a solemn but true fact of life with Meghan.

It’s common sense to write down what triggered the behaviors in the first place, but sometimes I’m told it’s a mystery. Yeah, right? … uh, not really. As her mom -- and the only person who knows her so well -- I know that her hand biting is obviously due to a sign of frustration (well that’s evident to all), but with a few other imperceptible facts I can usually pinpoint what caused the outburst in the first place, such as: she is not getting what she wants (the stubborn girl); she is not completely understood (the frustrated girl); she wants her dinner and NOW (the very hungry girl); or she is not feeling well: fighting a cold or other (the poor sick girl).

What do these facts really do for me other than help me feel less helpless? Yeah, that’s what it comes down to. She can’t get away with these behaviors no matter what prompted them, but I feel as though I owe it to her to at least understand “why” she exhibits SIB and destructive behavior, and yesterday was no different. I had to hold my breath because I received two calls from her school (did you get that — two): one was her scheduled call from her teacher to tell me that she had some SIB, and the other was from the nurse. Yikes, the nurse call is never a good sign! I was told that she bit a teacher and drew blood. Ouch. Ouch to the fact that biting someone else hasn’t happened in over six months, and the first incident at her new school.

And now that you know that I feel helpless -- as one would in this situation -- what does a helpless parent do with this kind of information? Apologize? Certainly not. Actually, one of the very first and very wise comments made years ago by one of her teachers was: “You should never feel as though you have to apologize for your autistic child.” How true is that? And she was right, so I don’t -- and nor should you. Instead, I ask what lead to the problem to get to the “why”; the inexcusable, but explainable “why.”

As for yesterday I already knew that Meghan wasn’t feeling well -- and to me -- that only means that she’s nothing more than a ticking time bomb and I must wait patiently for these inevitable calls -- and without apology.

Don’t get me wrong; these are also the days that I feel bad for her teachers: the underpaid, sacrificial heroes that never let-up or run and hide (um, like I would – like anyone would when an enraged person is ready to strike), but, instead, they are unwavering in their approach and dedication to working with Meghan and not letting her autism get the better of her. Now that is a hero to Meghan and to the people who love her.

And I feel bad for me, too (yeah, I thought I’d throw that in), ‘cause she’s coming home today -- noontime to be exact. So if you’re the praying kind, then "pray." Pray for the weak, the vulnerable, the “prey” who is up against a nonverbal autistic girl and a very bad cold.

And her menstrual cycle.


Tanya @ Teenautism said...

Oh, Holly, I feel for you. I will be thinking of you and praying and hoping that things go okay this weekend. Take care.

endswith8741 said...

It's hard to get beat up by your kid, and it's hard to hear when your kid beats up other people. Though my son is only five, I get this already.

I'm sorry.

I'll be thinking of you and praying for you and the family this weekend.

Shea's Mom said...

I sending you my wishes and prayers too. Very touching post.

My boy has a serious speech delay and frustration is a palpable thing.

I like your blog and will keep checking back on you.

Hang in there.


babs m said...

Best wishes indeed.

Little Miss is just the opposite. She normally won't tell you she's not feeling well, and we finally disagnose something wrong by the amount of withdrawal and silence. Then it's a crazy process of elimination to try to guess what hurts while she doesn't want to say anything.