The Kid had a meltdown yesterday. One of the special kinds of meltdowns that come with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Not a temper tantrum or pouting because he didn’t get his way. The kind of meltdown that results in a call from the teacher to the parent while the parent is working. The Kid was pissed. And, lashing out, and shaking his desk, and telling the teacher she doesn’t care about him, and that he hates her and he wants to quit school and that he wants to poke his eye out! She was awesome and kept her voice neutral and said she understands and that she would miss him if he quit the school. By the time I got there it was all over. Cool as a cucumber. He was like, “Mom, oops! It’s all good.”
He was mad because his little friend wasn’t paying attention to him. His teacher said he had been having a great day, and that she has no idea what triggered the outburst. We talked about it in the car on the way home. After he told me a few times that he didn’t want to talk about it, of course. We finally came up with a plan if he ever starts feeling so frustrated he wants to hit something or someone. We came up with a “safe word” he can tell himself if he’s getting too anxious or frustrated or upset. The word he picked is “Monkey Butt.” Uh huh. I had to remind him not to say it out loud because he just giggles and giggles– and it’s supposed to be his word to remind him to be calm. Monkey Butt.
I went home and looked at my shelf load of books on Engaging Autism, and Raising The Spirited Child and looked for some answers. I am mostly a proactive parent. I am engaged in my kid’s life. I am not always patient, or considerate to his ultra-sensitivities. I want to be, but I am not. Aggression and outbursts come with this turf. It’s a bit overwhelming at times. The other day we went for a walk, and he was especially wound up and pulling on me, and hugging me, and holding my hand, and bumping me. And, the physical toll of being jostled around was starting to wear on my patience, and he got upset that I was short and asked him to stop bumping me and our walk, on one of the first nice days of the year, turned into stress. I don’t know if I am doing the best I can. I consult the books. I try to be as loving and as sensitive as I know how to be. It sounds like what they recommend is what I am already doing, but to make a difference in behavior it’s going to require even more diligence and dedication on my part. It’s exhausting. But, I also very much don’t want my sweet, funny, curious, and sensitive child to be kicking at the other children and shaking so hard he turns red in the face because his little pal won’t talk to him while they are supposed to be listening to a story. At times, I wish the books had better answers, and I wish that Monkey Butt could stop the train in its tracks before it derails again.