I feel so grateful for the progress my son has made in the last few months. I see a light at the end of the tunnel. And I wanted to share a few of the things I have done to help him. As I mentioned previously, we pulled him out of public school and started teaching him at home. He was being bullied pretty severely at school. He is only 8 and did not know that I wasn’t aware of what was going on. He also didn’t know he could go to anyone else for help. So he shut down.
He fought me and refused to go to school. He pretended he was sick at every turn. And when I made him go to school (after a lot of yelling and fighting) he would come home and break things. It got so bad that I knew if he was alone in a room for more than 5 minutes I would find something in pieces or destroyed when I went in there.
We ended up pulling him out of school because of other issues with his teacher not following his 504 plan. I wish I had been in tune with him enough to know he needed to be pulled from school. But I only learned how things had been going in the last few weeks. It has literally taken me three months to pull him out of his dark and depressed state. And since he would not talk to me about what happened at school—or talk to his ABA therapist about it either—I had to prayerfully try things till something worked. So here is what worked for us.
The first thing I did was get him active. We went to the local Rec center and played every morning. We started swimming lessons and I learned quickly that the water calmed him down. So I talked to the staff and got permission to do floating therapy with him when the pool was empty. I put on his floaties and took him to a section of the pool that had a current. And he floated.
He had his own snorkel and mask and would lay in the water face down and pretend he was dead. But the floating and relaxing and letting the current sooth his troubled heart made a huge difference. I would keep him in the pool for thirty minutes to an hour a day. And we would have active play for another thirty minutes.
The next thing I did was put all his toys in storage closets and bins. For him, if he is not seeing it, he often forgets it is there. We saved a lot of his toys that way. But we also gave him permission to take things apart that were approved. I took him to the local thrift store a couple times a week and he would spend hours dissecting electronics of all types.
It was cool to see him learning how different things worked. When his special interest fixation turned to electricity, and he almost started fires on several occasions, I took him to the child psychologist. She would only prescribe medicine for him.
I hated doing it, but he was going to kill himself if things didn’t change. We found that a medicine for ADHD was the best fit, and with a tiny dose, he has been able to control his impulses to experiment with dangerous substances.
Every kid is different, but we found Quivilant XR is the best for us. A neuro-typical kid will take 20mls and my Spectrum kiddo takes only 1ml. Since that crisis time, I’ve found another therapist who will deal with young children without just writing a prescription. But the medicine is still part of the plan. It made too much of a difference to toss it aside.
And finally, I had a long talk with my son. I explained that we were a team and that we would now be homeschooling. Never having to go back to that school has been a big blessing for him. We have spent months working on our relationship and building it back up to where he can trust me again. It has been long and painful, and I pray he is never that shut down and overwhelmed again. But patience, love, and these homegrown therapies have helped.
I also have to make sure I give him space when he asks for it. Since he is not breaking things anymore I can leave him alone for 30 minutes at a time. I’ve also started doing my grocery shopping online and arranging for pickup, so he is no longer subjected to the noise and bright lights and overwhelming environment of the grocery store. I shop alone, or online these days. And he is a lot calmer knowing he won’t have to go inside if he comes with me at all.
The beautiful thing is that I get to witness his progress. I went with him to Cub Scout day camp last week. And for the first time in 3 months, he interacted with kids his own age. He talked to people, he played and laughed. He has been hiding so long and running away from any conflict, that those days at camp were a beacon of hope for me.
We still have a long way to go. My son will always likely be sensitive to teasing, and will always hate nicknames. But it’s all about baby steps and walking beside him as he decides he is ready for the next thing. I will no longer drag him while he kicks and screams. I see now the damage I did to his heart. I’m determined never to lose his trust again.
I now enter every environment trying to see things as he would see them. And I will no longer trust teachers as easily, just because they are teachers. But I can say now, with confidence, that I know we will get through this. And I hope my experience helps you if you’re struggling in a similar place. I remind myself almost daily that God teamed the two of us up. That I was meant to be his mother. And that somewhere inside me is the strength and some talent that will bless him and help him become the best version of himself.
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. Having completed training to be an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) for ABA therapy she is beginning to understand her son. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism, Abby wants you to know that the challenges can be overcome, and there are blessings in autism. You or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.