Before Autism 101

I think I’m a good mom.  My son is autistic and parenting him is really tough sometimes, but I finally feel that I do it well.  I really believe that, but he’s seven, it has been a long road to this point and I don’t want anyone to think I believe I’ve been perfect at this job, because I certainly haven’t been.

Just a few years ago, I used to throw cold water on my son when his tantrums got out of control.  It’s embarrassing to admit that, but it was the routine of a desperate mommy and it’s real life.  I’d love to tell you that nothing else worked and that the water calmed him down, but that really isn’t true.

My son used to hit us a lot.  He also kicked and slapped and threw his toys and screamed and bashed things around in his room, sometimes in the middle of the night.

It almost doesn’t matter why.  Maybe some step in his routine was forgotten or a bowl was the wrong color.  Maybe we turned on the water before he got into the tub, instead of after.  Who knows?

What is important is that his tantrums made me feel like he controlled our house.  I couldn’t stand it.  When he hit me I felt humiliated and abused.  And he was only four.  I wasn’t going to hit him back, so I threw water.  Wielding a cup of it above his head made me feel for a split second like I was in charge, not him.

The feeling didn’t last.  The moment I drenched him I always felt like a cheap, unoriginal piece of crap.  No creativity.  No control.  No patience.  No right to be a parent.  And my son would go crazy.  Crazy.

His screams would get worse.  The toy tossing would get worse.  The hitting would get worse.  And he learned to say “No throw a water.”  My heart would break and I would run my monster self into the office cave to hide from him.

Once there I would sit and cry, sometimes to a friend on the phone, but mostly to myself.  And all the while he would be in the hall outside the door feeling abandoned, on top of being angry and wet.  I was a horrible mom.

Those days are gone and I’ve learned a million techniques for dealing with his upsets, but I confess that on occasion all I think to do is yell right back at him.  I am human and I have my limits.  He makes me crazy and sometimes I can’t think clearly enough to come up with a rational course of action, so I don’t.

I think I’m committing this to my blog in the tiny hope that another parent with a kid on the spectrum will find it and feel better somehow, but I realize that’s an egotistical dream that might not come true.  For whatever it’s worth, I guess I thought you regular folks should hear it too.

4 thoughts on “Before Autism 101

  1. Becky, this is a very frank commentary and your experiences are stunning. I believe that you are not alone and hope that others will find solace in your lifelong travels toward understanding and coping with autism. I can’t believe that you were a horrible mom. You were trying everything possible to bring him back from wherever he goes when he gets stuck.

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  3. I’m not a parent, but my little brother has autism. This recollection of how your son behaves totally reminds me of my brother. The screaming, the hitting, the feeling of being controlled, the frustration and the sometimes lack of understanding.

    My other brother and I were often very cruel to him, mocking him because we didn’t or couldn’t understand.

    It’s not easy, but it sounds like you do a good job. As a bit of advice and maybe motivation – don’t let anyone tell your son he can’t achieve what he wants because of his disability. My brother was told the same: When he left ‘special’ preschool to go to mainstream education, they said he’d never cope, repeated again when he went to middle and upper schools. He’d never manage 6th Form (further education for ages 16-18).

    He managed perfectly fine. And a month ago he graduated from university with a First Class degree in biology (the highest grade). He started his first job less than a week after finishing uni, also in the field that he studied. He’s going on to do more education to allow him to work in the NHS.

    I think that he is a prime example of ability and drive overcoming disability. I won’t lie, it hasn’t been easy for him or our family over the years. But, keep him in mind with your son – encourage him to chase his dreams. He’ll get there.

    • Thank you for sharing this about your brother. It’s always encouraging to hear of other autistic children making their way and succeeding. I do worry about the future a lot, but I am relieved that my son seems to make constant progress. Congratulations to you and your family for making it through and helping your brother to be all that he can be.

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