Kids who Hurt and the Parents who Love Them

I noticed the little girl right away. 7 or 8 maybe.

She was sitting in a chair, on an iPad. Quietly.

She had curls. Blonde ones. She was stunning really.

I was waiting for my son and impatient.

I had a million things to do and lately it felt like I was spending a lot of time in waiting rooms.

I heard it before I saw it. The sounds. Like an animal.

The iPad hit the table.

The girl sprung out of her seat, ran and dived onto the little boy.

She was screaming. And attacking.

I looked around, panicked. The room was full of people.

Everyone was staring, mouths open. I heard gasps.

Within seconds, micro seconds probably, a woman pulled the girl off of the crying boy.

Immediately I noticed that while he was crying, he didn’t look shocked. He didn’t look confused.

I quickly realized he was the little girls brother. And this has happened before.

And mom saved him.

You could hear a pin drop. Once staring eyes from every parent in the room now averted.

Except for me. I made eye contact.

I think because I was so stunned. I had never seen a child do that before. Attack like that. Out of the blue with seemingly no warning.

Once she settled her daughter in again on her iPad, she sat down next to me holding her son. I saw the claw marks across his cheek.

He snuggled into him mom. I thought I heard him say, ‘we go now mama.’

I smiled. I didn’t know what else to do.

This woman was my age. She seemed nice and normal. She was also exhausted. Broke down by the strains of autism.

‘She’s not a monster, ya know?’

I looked over at her. She was covered in sweat, like she’d just run a marathon.

‘She’s not even mean. She wouldn’t hurt a fly. She just can’t handle when Jack makes this clicking noise. I’ve told him over and over again to stop. But…’

Her words trailed off. She knew what she was doing.

She was justifying for her daughter. Justifying severe autism. Justifying hitting.

But she was doing it at the cost of her son.

Lord did I feel that in my soul.

I could tell she was embarrassed. Humiliated. Mad. Sad. Frustrated. Worried.

I know because I’ve been there. Not publicly like this.

But I’ve been there.

Watching my son kick and hit and flail is heartbreaking to me. It’s devastating.

Maybe it’s a therapist. The amazing one with the smile so full of hope.

Or his brother. Or even myself. I’ve taken a kick or two. A head to the jaw. A slap to the cheek.

And I’ve cycled through every stage possible.

Excuses. Blaming myself. Vowing to do more. Embarrassment. Shock. Anger. Worry. Helpless.

There is nothing quite like watching your child hurt someone. Putting the feelings into words is almost impossible.

But here is what I want you to know.

You can be the best parent ever, heck, you probably are, and your autistic child can still hurt others.

You can do every ABA tactic. You can do first-then, PEC’s, lists, charts, rewards, and so on, and your child can still be triggered by something and hurt.

I know because I’ve been there.

And know this too, your child is not a monster.

For whatever reason, they are hurting. They need more. More patience. More understanding. More communication. More everything.

And as the parent you know you need to be faster. More alert to the triggers and signs. You need to do better.

Because the worst possible thing in your mind is someone being afraid of your child.

And if you think autism isn’t talked about enough publicly, you try bringing up children or adults who hit, kick and hurt. That is a topic never discussed.

Holy stigma.

Parents are too scared to talk about it. They don’t want the shame that goes with it. So they stay silent.

No one is bringing it up over a beer or around the water cooler. But yet, it’s something that so many of us live with.

I just want to say, hang in there moms and dads. Don’t give up. And know that you aren’t alone.

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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