Today I saw a young boy, around eight years old with his older brother. The boy was running away from his brother (I think around 16 years old or so) and obviously upsetting him. At first glance the boy looked bratty. He was getting physically violent with his brother and running away. His brother was clearly frustrated and nearby observers were obviously disturbed by what they were seeing. But I was seeing something entirely different.
I was watching a family in crisis.
And boy, did it seem familiar…
Braden was a beautiful baby, and he was so incredibly mellow. Even his birth was easy. One small push and he came out. I asked the doctor why he wasn’t crying. “He’s content,” was his answer. And I believed him.
Honestly, this kid never cried. Everyone commented about what a well behaved baby he was. He didn’t cry and only smiled. He was such a sweet, sweet, baby.
Then he turned a year old. It was like a switch turned on in him, and anger was pouring out of his body. He screamed and cried all the time. Whenever he used words they were said at such a loud volume that it hurt your eardrums. Mike and I had no idea what was going on. I will get to his diagnosis and signs leading up to it in another post, but this is just to let you know that behaviours started happening around this age.
Some of these behaviours included: Biting and pinching his parents and sister, throwing breakable objects, screaming, running away, kicking, pulling hair, and various others that I’ve conveniently blacked out through the years.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t the behaviors that were the worst part of that time in our lives. It was the looks and judgement we received from others. Whenever a child is misbehaving we assume it’s bad parenting. Heck, I used to think this myself, so I’m not innocent in all of this. It hurt me so much to know that people were judging me based on what Braden was doing. People told me I was a bad mother. People told me I should discipline him. People told me me I should spank him. People told me he was bad.
And he had no diagnosis. So it’s not like I could say, “He has _______________. There is a reason for this.”
That made things so much worse. I remember being jealous of mothers who had children with apparent special needs like Downs Syndrome. I knew that if a child with Downs Syndrome was misbehaving, people would smile and not judge his parents. Of course this is a ridiculous thought, but it’s what I believed at the time.
Now I understand why Braden was behaving as he was. He was (and is) uncomfortable in his own skin. He can’t communicate well, so he is angry. There is so much going on in this young man’s world, that none of us could possibly truly “get it.” But we try.
My heart breaks for the boy and his brother that I saw today. They have so much ahead of them, I’m really hoping they have a diagnosis and therapies are starting. I hope this boy can start to feel comfortable in his own skin and learn a form of communication. I hope his family can understand how best to deal with his behaviours both in public and private. And I hope the surrounding community can treat this family with kindness; something that was missing for us as we were struggling so very much.
The world is a little more aware of autism. Thank heavens.