Dealing With The Angry Autistic Child – It Ain’t Easy

 

A video has surfaced on FoxNews from Florida about an officer who was fired for his apparent mishandling of the unruly behavior of an Autistic boy in a school which prompted me to respond with the following.

Attempting to manage an Autistic child or young adult is challenging. Trust me on this. I’ve written about this several times, especially here on Ricochet. Part of the issue with Autistic adolescent boys in high school, in particular, is that in addition to their inability to deal with loud, complex and confusing auditory stimuli – school bells, yelling, shrieking, shouting – especially in hectic classroom environments, their body chemistry is changing and testosterone contributes to their aggression.

Sometimes they’ll quietly stew on issues and their frustration and anxiety elevates because they cannot articulate what’s upsetting them because of their speech limitations and inability to communicate. So, sometimes they’ll lash out without any forewarning. My son’s teachers, aides, caregivers and I have been on the receiving end of such episodes.

It’s important that everyone who works with or deals with Autistic children or young adults, especially law enforcement or school security personnel, receive adequate training from psychiatrists, behavioral therapists or other specialists in Autistic behaviors and then are monitored from time to time in how they are applying that knowledge and those skills.

Make no mistake, some of these kids can be aggressive and cause physical harm. I believe, after having raised a severely Autistic boy, that I understand the frustrations on both sides — from the Autistic child’s perspective and those who try to control or modify their behavior.

In the article and video linked, it seems that the officer’s technique definitely heightened the tension and anxiety of the child rather than alleviating it. In fact, at one point the officer shouts conflicting orders that would confuse any Autistic child, because often Autis don’t understand the subtleties of common speech. At one point, the officer dares or taunts the boy to throw the books he’s threatening to throw and the next he tells him he better not throw them. Processing those conflicting orders only serves to heighten anxiety and tension. Temple Grandin, often describes how literal Autistic folks process language, especially metaphors and colloquialisms.

I’ve spent many nights dealing with my son’s anger and aggression when I’ve been awakened at 3 a.m. by his explosive pounding on the wall between our rooms that shakes the whole house. There is a reason that plywood is nailed up around his room. One gets tired of patching holes in drywall.

One of the first measures to attempt to ratchet down an episode of aggression, once you’ve determined that your physical person is not exposed to attack, is to turn off any auditory stimuli – the TV, an iPad or tablet and lower or turn off lighting. Often a display of anger is essentially a way for the non-verbal Autistic child to communicate to their parent or caregiver, “You better watch out, I’m angry!” before actual physical contact ensues, if it does ensue. It’s better to respond to threats with measured but firm tones and eventually with softer or more soothing tones in hopes that the aggression will subside. Please note, that even these techniques aren’t always successful. In many cases, I remove my son’s iPad when it’s clear that he’s overtired or has been overstimulated by it. This helps to nullify his aggression because he then becomes more fixated with the return of his iPad rather than lashing out. He understands that if he hits the wall, his iPad will be taken away from him – for several hours, until the next day and in extreme cases maybe a day or two.

My son, as are many other Autistic young adults, often are prescribed neuroleptic medications to modify manic or hyperactive or even dangerous, self-destructive or aggressive behaviors. Some need an anti-seizure medication which also has sedative properties. My son will suffer from Grand Mal seizures if he doesn’t take his anti-seizure medication.

It should be understood that a normal adult would often be knocked out or put to sleep if they took the same dosages of these medications which should give you an idea at the level of energy that these children and young adults operate under and the ability of their bodies to metabolize these drugs. Some of these kids get very physically big, partly because some of the medications increase appetite which results in weight gain. My son, who is 24 years old now, is already taller than me and his punches and kicks definitely have more force behind them. My son has also been prescribed emergency dosages of medications if the aggressive episode is extreme and long-lasting and possibly dangerous to others.

If I’m rushed and attacked my best defense is to grab hold of my son’s forearms and push him backward onto his bed. Once I do that, he rarely leaps up and attempts to attack me again. Rarely. But I’ve learned to keep my distance especially from his legs. Getting kicked in the ribs isn’t fun.

My son has also been trained to inhale deeply and exhale when I give the command, “Relax. How do you relax?” Several deep breaths and exhales helps to settle him down and redirect his thoughts away from whatever it was that angered him. Of course, sometimes this is ineffective.

The other day, I noticed that one of his caregivers was attempting to get my son to dress himself after his bath, which my son was aggressively resisting. The caregiver was seated on the floor of his room in a subordinate position. I intervened and took the caregiver aside and instructed that it was always better to remain standing to assert a more authoritative position and so as not to be an easy target if attacked.

Each Autistic child has a distinct personality and some are more aggressive or have more aggressive episodes than others. So, don’t take some of what I’ve written as a universal guide by any means but often many of the behaviors are common across many Autistic young adults, especially boys. My son has also been diagnosed as bi-polar. So, sometimes within minutes of a flash of aggression his brain can suddenly flip to the other end of the emotional spectrum and he’ll begin laughing about something very silly. As a parent or caregiver, at least in my son’s case, one has to learn to be more emotionally detached in dealing with his episodes of aggression because almost instantly he can be happy and silly or the episodes are very shortlived.

The important thing in dealing with flashes of aggression is to make sure you are safe first. You can’t do much good for your angry child or client if you allow yourself to be hurt. And it’s important to refrain from acting with aggression yourself. It’s a natural human reaction when you are attacked or blindsided by a kick or fist to the face – probably to do with the instinct for self-preservation and survival. Deflect or push away punches and kicks. Push the angry child or young adult away from you and onto a bed or sofa if available or make them sit on the floor. Many will comply in doing so. None of this is easy. It’s always stressful. But once you’ve experienced several of these outbursts, you begin to see ways to reduce the anger and anxiety that the child is exhibiting, as I’ve indicated. And listen to the experts of which I don’t claim to be one. I’m a parent. Parents are not typically trained to deal with this. But there are therapists and specialists who are. Get help if you need it. And be safe.

Please feel free to share with any of your friends or relatives who may be dealing with an occasionally aggressive Autistic child. All the best.

There are 39 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. GrannyDude Member

    Holy Cow, Brian.
    I did a Crisis Intervention/Mental Health First Aid class with my game wardens and we talked a bit about handling an autistic person—more than we might have, because the instructor (also an LEO) has a son with autism. This has been a good reminder, and I will share it if that’s okay with you?

    A question: if your son is also bipolar, does he hallucinate when manic, or just get incredibly adrenalized? That is: does he know who you are?

    • #1
    • August 26, 2017, at 4:26 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Post author

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    Holy Cow, Brian.
    I did a Crisis Intervention/Mental Health First Aid class with my game wardens and we talked a bit about handling an autistic person—more than we might have, because the instructor (also an LEO) has a son with autism. This has been a good reminder, and I will share it if that’s okay with you?

    A question: if your son is also bipolar, does he hallucinate when manic, or just get incredibly adrenalized? That is: does he know who you are?

    Please do share.

    In answer to your questions, it’s difficult to tell if he hallucinates. He is very imaginative and will act out scenes from movies or get very theatrical. This morning he was in rare form. There are moments when he explodes in anger at night, that he will stare at a location adjacent to his bed, which, I have to say is pretty damn eerie…sort of like when you have a cat and it stares at something over your shoulder. His previous psychiatrist, now retired from practice, did warn me that as he got older he may start to experience some psychotic episodes. “Oh, great”, I replied.

    • #2
    • August 26, 2017, at 4:32 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Percival Thatcher

    It’s hard to believe that the officer had training that he just didn’t use, but I don’t have any experience at all dealing with autistic people.

    • #3
    • August 26, 2017, at 4:56 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Post author

    Percival (View Comment):
    It’s hard to believe that the officer had training that he just didn’t use, but I don’t have any experience at all dealing with autistic people.

    Well, he may have been trained but may have had a stressful day or was dealing with other personal issues that could have negatively affected the way he handled the situation. We’ve all been there. He certainly didn’t physically abuse the boy and seems to have just used poor judgement in his threats and tone. I’m sure he didn’t expect his own behavior to be the source of publicity. I hope he fairs well.

    • #4
    • August 26, 2017, at 5:24 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  5. Boss Mongo Member

    Mr. Watt, you are walking a hard road. You have my respect, and my prayers and hopes for the best.

    • #5
    • August 26, 2017, at 7:50 PM PDT
    • 22 likes
  6. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    As ever, Brian, kudos, hugs, and prayers, for you, the Bengal Tiger, and his non-family caregivers! Only half-facetious query: Could these techniques be used with Trigglypuff snowflakes or anyone in Antifa? They seem awfully overstimulated, at times, don’t they?

    • #6
    • August 26, 2017, at 11:14 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Brian, these stories tear at my heart. It sounds like you could, at some point, be in danger as your son gets older? How do you deal with that possibility? (If it’s none of my business, just ignore.)

    I also wondered if the boy in the video was in special classes, with his low cognitive abilities. And I wonder if he is in the best place, at a public school, for his situation? I realize you don’t know his specific story, but I feel such concern and sadness for situations like yours and the family in the story. I say a prayer for you and your son.

    • #7
    • August 27, 2017, at 10:29 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Post author

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Brian, these stories tear at my heart. It sounds like you could, at some point, be in danger as your son gets older? How do you deal with that possibility? (If it’s none of my business, just ignore.)

    I also wondered if the boy in the video was in special classes, with his low cognitive abilities. And I wonder if he is in the best place, at a public school, for his situation? I realize you don’t know his specific story, but I feel such concern and sadness for situations like yours and the family in the story. I say a prayer for you and your son.

    Don’t be sad for me. We all have our crosses to bear. There tens of millions of people on the planet who have a lot more difficult situations to deal with than I have. For the most part, my son is a happy-go-lucky person and his aggressive behaviors seem to surface on roughly an eight day cycle even as he can get angry unexpectedly for other reasons – most of which I don’t know because of his speech limitations.

    As I get older, I’ll have to assess whether it’s wiser to keep him at home. I try to keep the general atmosphere around him upbeat, humorous and light and my son does have a good sense of humor.

    Regarding the case in Florida, I don’t have a way to assess the Autistic boy in question without knowing him personally. It sounded like he had a flash of anger but that shouldn’t suggest that this is a frequent occurrence or that he’s particularly difficult to deal with.

    With regard to public versus private school resources, I think the public school system, at least in California, is better funded and resourced than private schools are to deal with Autistic children. When my son attended our local public high school, in addition to the special classes, he had one-on-one aides to help him through the day and there were additional classroom aides to help support the teacher. My guess is that some states are better resourced, organized and funded than others to address the unique needs of the Autistic population.

    Thanks.

    • #8
    • August 27, 2017, at 10:51 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Brian, these stories tear at my heart. It sounds like you could, at some point, be in danger as your son gets older? How do you deal with that possibility? (If it’s none of my business, just ignore.)

    I also wondered if the boy in the video was in special classes, with his low cognitive abilities. And I wonder if he is in the best place, at a public school, for his situation? I realize you don’t know his specific story, but I feel such concern and sadness for situations like yours and the family in the story. I say a prayer for you and your son.

    “Mainstreaming” in the general educational population became law in the early-’70s. First, for students with mobility/sensory disabilities – who needed environmental/physical – accommodation. Then, for students with cognitive disabilities, more recently for those with emotional/behavioral limits…I understand the desire to view education as a “right”, leading to integration; I’ve often wondered whether the student’s needs, or the parents’/school systems’ desires hold more sway in making decisions about the “least-restrictive”/best environment.

    • #9
    • August 27, 2017, at 10:53 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Aaron Miller Member

    Police officers, teachers, and other authorities should be trained for ordinary scenarios. Any training for extraordinary scenarios is a bonus because there are simply too many challenges to prepare for.

    But God bless the good people forever improving their readiness for the sake of others.

    • #10
    • August 27, 2017, at 10:56 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Wolverine Coolidge

    Brian,

    This is an excellent post and everything you said is spot on, speaking from experience. My son has Asperger’s and is now entering his teenaged years. He is big and on neuroleptics. The biggest thing I have learned is trying not to escalate, something that I have struggled with. In terms of schools, our public school has done an excellent job with him and I think in general the public schools have more resources than private schools.

    • #11
    • August 27, 2017, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  12. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    If you call in the police, do not expect them to be fully trained on the nuances of autistic behavior. They will apply escalating force to subdue the suspect. This could include a bullet in the head. That’s if you are lucky – in many big cities, they will do as little as possible to avoid being sued.

    Brian – is there a reason you do not physically restrain your son? What happens if he attacks someone who is not a caregiver?

    • #12
    • August 27, 2017, at 1:13 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    I just returned from visiting my autistic 5-year old granddaughter in Anchorage. She lives with my daughter and her husband as well as two other siblings, both of whom are very bright. She isn’t violent except when my daughter brushes her teeth or her hair, which she hates. It seems to me that the entire household focuses on her needs, and my other two grandchildren, a 10-yr. old boy and a 8-year girl, are getting the shaft. This coming school year my daughter has enrolled her in a special pre-school for autistic kids for three days a week for three hours each, a program for which she had to be tested to even qualify to attend. She does not speak, except for unintelligible babbling, is large for her age and is very strong to the degree that she is capable of doing serious damage in the house. I look at my exhausted daughter and wonder if it’s even worth it to try to keep this child at home. It’s very discouraging to me, but my daughter, amazingly, considers her a blessing. Brian, your life sounds like hell to me, but I guess maybe you can identify with my daughter’s attitude. Supposedly God does not give us a bigger burden than we can carry, but sometimes I wonder.

    • #13
    • August 27, 2017, at 1:15 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. JcTPatriot Inactive

    Reading your excellent post made me feel sad for the officer, now that I understand your difficulties.

    “Did any of the people involved in the decision to fire him have any training in dealing with Autism?” That’s my first thought, and I am wondering if the answer is ‘no.’

    My second is, “Now they have to hire someone new and start all over again.” It just seems to me that the guy is there and doing his job, and is willing to do it, which puts him in an elite group. Some special training for the officer would make everyone’s world a better place, instead of just lashing out (like the child, in a way) and tossing the poor guy out on the street.

    It’s a different story if is actions happen often, but if this was a one-time event, they only hurt themselves by firing him.

    • #14
    • August 27, 2017, at 1:18 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor

    JcTPatriot (View Comment):
    Some special training for the officer would make everyone’s world a better place, instead of just lashing out (like the child, in a way) and tossing the poor guy out on the street.

    Keep in mind that his chief said he’d had special training but seemed to have ignored it. I tend to think Brian is correct–that maybe he was having a terrible day. And you are also correct–the next guy they hire will need that same training and have the burden of this history to deal with. Sheesh.

    • #15
    • August 27, 2017, at 1:23 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And I wonder if he is in the best place, at a public school, for his situation? I realize you don’t know his specific story, but I feel such concern and sadness for situations like yours and the family in the story.

    In my opinion autistic children should be in special needs classes as it’s not fair to teachers or “normal” students to have to deal with the constant demands of autism. Furthermore, other kids make fun of them and shun them on the playground, something that negatively affects their self worth.

    • #16
    • August 27, 2017, at 1:24 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Post author

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Brian – is there a reason you do not physically restrain your son? What happens if he attacks someone who is not a caregiver?

    What would you suggest? Duct tape? Rope? Seriously, he has learned over the years what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in public and in the home. When he was much younger there was an occasion where he kicked a stranger at Disneyland. After profuse apologies from us to the injured party and his parents – who were very understanding – he was immediately taken home. So, he learned immediately that such behavior had consequences. I don’t believe in using physical restraints when other more humane and socially acceptable techniques have been shown to be effective.

    • #17
    • August 27, 2017, at 1:29 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  18. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Post author

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And I wonder if he is in the best place, at a public school, for his situation? I realize you don’t know his specific story, but I feel such concern and sadness for situations like yours and the family in the story.

    In my opinion autistic children should be in special needs classes as it’s not fair to teachers or “normal” students to have to deal with the constant demands of autism. Furthermore, other kids make fun of them and shun them on the playground, something that negatively affects their self worth.

    Well, I don’t think your last statement quite holds up to my experience. I’ve noticed that other more normal children who are in close proximity of Autistic kids learn to be empathetic very quickly. In high school, most of the student body has been exposed and in close contact with special needs students that it becomes second nature. Due to the increased population of special needs students over the years and their interaction with normal students, I’ve found that younger people are much more considerate and understanding of special needs children, young adults and adults than older normal adults who never had that level of social interaction. Occasionally, when I’m out in the community with my son, one of his former fellow high school students will recognize him and come up and give him a hug and ask how he’s doing. So, forgive me for not buying into your narrative.

    • #18
    • August 27, 2017, at 1:36 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Post author

    JcTPatriot (View Comment):
    Reading your excellent post made me feel sad for the officer, now that I understand your difficulties.

    “Did any of the people involved in the decision to fire him have any training in dealing with Autism?” That’s my first thought, and I am wondering if the answer is ‘no.’

    My second is, “Now they have to hire someone new and start all over again.” It just seems to me that the guy is there and doing his job, and is willing to do it, which puts him in an elite group. Some special training for the officer would make everyone’s world a better place, instead of just lashing out (like the child, in a way) and tossing the poor guy out on the street.

    It’s a different story if is actions happen often, but if this was a one-time event, they only hurt themselves by firing him.

    I agree and that’s partly why I wrote the post to say that dealing with angry Autistic children is not easy. I would have preferred that the officer was offered an opportunity to be retrained. We’re all human. We all make mistakes.

    • #19
    • August 27, 2017, at 1:38 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Brian Watt (View Comment):
    Occasionally, when I’m out in the community with my son, one of his former high school students will recognize him and come up and give him a hug and ask how he’s doing. So, forgive me for not buying into your narrative.

    I hope you’re right as I do hope for the best for my granddaughter. Maybe by the time they’re in high school, kids are more sophisticated and understanding than they are in elementary school.

    • #20
    • August 27, 2017, at 1:41 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Brian Watt (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Brian – is there a reason you do not physically restrain your son? What happens if he attacks someone who is not a caregiver?

    What would you suggest? Duct tape? Rope? Seriously, he has learned over the years what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in public and in the home. When he was much younger there was an occasion where he kicked a stranger at Disneyland. After profuse apologies from us to the injured party and his parents – who were very understanding – he was immediately taken home. So, he learned immediately that such behavior had consequences. I don’t believe in using physical restraints when other more humane and socially acceptable techniques have been shown to be effective.

    You referred to him as like a Bengal Tiger before, and report regular and unpredictable attacks. That sounds a lot like a dangerous animal, and you keep dangerous animals restrained. If he is self-aware enough not to maim strangers, that’s great. It’s better than the random insane bums I run across around my neighborhood.

    I’m just saying that if your son attacked me, I would defend myself in a manner designed to stop the threat. I would not know, and probably would not care, that he is a profoundly broken individual.

    • #21
    • August 27, 2017, at 1:46 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Post author

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Brian Watt (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Brian – is there a reason you do not physically restrain your son? What happens if he attacks someone who is not a caregiver?

    What would you suggest? Duct tape? Rope? Seriously, he has learned over the years what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in public and in the home. When he was much younger there was an occasion where he kicked a stranger at Disneyland. After profuse apologies from us to the injured party and his parents – who were very understanding – he was immediately taken home. So, he learned immediately that such behavior had consequences. I don’t believe in using physical restraints when other more humane and socially acceptable techniques have been shown to be effective.

    You referred to him as like a Bengal Tiger before, and report regular and unpredictable attacks. That sounds a lot like a dangerous animal, and you keep dangerous animals restrained. If he is self-aware enough not to maim strangers, that’s great. It’s better than the random insane bums I run across around my neighborhood.

    I’m just saying that if your son attacked me, I would defend myself in a manner designed to stop the threat. I would not know, and probably would not care, that he is a profoundly broken individual.

    My home has indoor key-deadbolt locks on the doors and bolts on the windows to prevent escapes. He is monitored throughout the day by his caregivers or by me depending on the hour of the day. He is quite aware that attacking people is unacceptable. When out in public, his caregivers or I monitor his moods and behavior extremely closely. I fully realize the potential risks in any given situation. I don’t visit china shops or fine art museums with him for obvious reasons. I don’t want to leave the impression that he is an uncontrollable, violent angry young man. 90+ per cent of the time he is a happy and sometimes a very funny young man. He is no more angry, bizarre and unpredictable in some ways than our current President and even I haven’t suggested putting restraints on him…apart from the Constitutional ones already in place.

    • #22
    • August 27, 2017, at 1:56 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  23. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Brian Watt (View Comment):

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And I wonder if he is in the best place, at a public school, for his situation? I realize you don’t know his specific story, but I feel such concern and sadness for situations like yours and the family in the story.

    In my opinion autistic children should be in special needs classes as it’s not fair to teachers or “normal” students to have to deal with the constant demands of autism. Furthermore, other kids make fun of them and shun them on the playground, something that negatively affects their self worth.

    Well, I don’t think your last statement quite holds up to my experience. I’ve noticed that other more normal children who are in close proximity of Autistic kids learn to be empathetic very quickly. In high school, most of the student body has been exposed and in close contact with special needs students that it becomes second nature. Due to the increased population of special needs students over the years and their interaction with normal students, I’ve found that younger people are much more considerate and understanding of special needs children, young adults and adults than older normal adults who never had that level of social interaction. Occasionally, when I’m out in the community with my son, one of his former fellow high school students will recognize him and come up and give him a hug and ask how he’s doing. So, forgive me for not buying into your narrative.

    “Shunning” is a feel-good excuse for avoiding ‘least-restrictive environment’/’best-possible-performance” for/from the person with the disability. My paternal grandparents were certain that I’d be ‘better off’ in a residential setting or tutored at home, for instance. Fortunately, my maternal grandmother and my mom’s sibs offered support for the opposite course – after a less-than-beneficial 6-year-long experience at the recommended, enlightened facility. A regular-curriculum, adapted environment late-elementary through junior high program repaired the holes in the earlier patchwork and made mainstreaming possible going forward. It really is the luck of the draw, quite often….And having advocates like my folks and Brian.

    • #23
    • August 27, 2017, at 2:12 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Brian Watt (View Comment):
    My home has indoor key-deadbolt locks on the doors and bolts on the windows to prevent escapes. He is monitored throughout the day by his caregivers or by me depending on the hour of the day. He is quite aware that attacking people is unacceptable. When out in public, his caregivers or I monitor his moods and behavior extremely closely. I fully realize the potential risks in any given situation. I don’t visit china shops or fine art museums with him for obvious reasons. I don’t want to leave the impression that he is an uncontrollable, violent angry young man. 90+ per cent of the time he is a happy and sometimes very funny young man. He is no more angry, bizarre and unpredictable in some ways than our current President and even I haven’t suggested putting restraints on him…apart from the Constitutional ones already in place.

    Okay, I was under the impression that he’d be smiling humming some Disney tune, then someone’s ringtone would get him upset and he’d violently attack the person with the phone, or something similar. Like a ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment… or a Bengal tiger.

    It is definitely good that he understands that attacking people is bad. I was unaware of how his perception worked, if that kind of relationship would actually click for him. It’s not that I thought he was malicious, but that he had no understanding that hurting people is bad and will get him in trouble.

    Well, I hope he has better hair than the president, or at least no orange spray tan…

    • #24
    • August 27, 2017, at 2:29 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Post author

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Brian Watt (View Comment):
    My home has indoor key-deadbolt locks on the doors and bolts on the windows to prevent escapes. He is monitored throughout the day by his caregivers or by me depending on the hour of the day. He is quite aware that attacking people is unacceptable. When out in public, his caregivers or I monitor his moods and behavior extremely closely. I fully realize the potential risks in any given situation. I don’t visit china shops or fine art museums with him for obvious reasons. I don’t want to leave the impression that he is an uncontrollable, violent angry young man. 90+ per cent of the time he is a happy and sometimes very funny young man. He is no more angry, bizarre and unpredictable in some ways than our current President and even I haven’t suggested putting restraints on him…apart from the Constitutional ones already in place.

    Okay, I was under the impression that he’d be smiling humming some Disney tune, then someone’s ringtone would get him upset and he’d violently attack the person with the phone, or something similar. Like a ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment… or a Bengal tiger.

    It is definitely good that he understands that attacking people is bad. I was unaware of how his perception worked, if that kind of relationship would actually click for him. It’s not that I thought he was malicious, but that he had no understanding that hurting people is bad and will get him in trouble.

    Well, I hope he has better hair than the president, or at least no orange spray tan…

    No one has better hair than the President. He has the best hair.

    • #25
    • August 27, 2017, at 2:33 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    A regular-curriculum, adapted environment late-elementary through junior high program repaired the holes in the earlier patchwork and made mainstreaming possible going forward. It really is the luck of the draw, quite often….And having advocates like my folks and Brian.

    You’re so right. It also depends on where you land within the “spectrum” as levels of mental disability vary greatly. Right now I’m trying to educate myself so that I understand and appreciate any progress she makes. My daughter is working on a program to teach her to read as she’s convinced that, even if she never speaks, the ability to read will open the world of communication to her.

    • #26
    • August 27, 2017, at 2:45 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Whether one liked his politics or not, I still find it remarkable that Fred Rogers played the piano before he spoke – and didn’t speak until he was 5…There will be a way to unlock her world to you – and yours to her. I’ll be praying for this, @goldwaterwoman!

    As well, as my siblings aged, they were invited/included in the task of keeping me comfortable, functioning, and equipped. My brother now repairs the switches on my patient lifts; keeps my lift-equipped van and my mobility-aid in running trim and builds lap-trays. My sisters can all meet physical needs in a pinch – as can my nieces. Inclusion builds empathy and compassion – and can ease parental stress – if appropriate. If sibs can be educated about the needs, resentment is sometimes lessened…Just a thought.

    • #27
    • August 27, 2017, at 3:08 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Brian, could you link to Temple Grandin’s discussion of language processing, that you mentioned in the OP? Please/thanks.

    • #28
    • August 27, 2017, at 3:18 PM PDT
    • Like
  29. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Brian, it seems to me that it’s cathartic for you to share your experiences with others as you have written about your son several times. I have encouraged my daughter to join a group of other parents with autistic children where they can communicate mutual frustrations and hopes with each other that parents with “normal” kids couldn’t possibly understand. Have you joined such a group?

    • #29
    • August 27, 2017, at 3:38 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Post author

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Brian, could you link to Temple Grandin’s discussion of language processing, that you mentioned in the OP? Please/thanks.

    Well, here’s a video with several scenes from the HBO film of Temple Grandin explaining how she understands reality by use of precise visual imagery stored in her brain.

    My reference to metaphor and colloquialisms is meant to imply that many on the spectrum aren’t able to generalize a concept or think of something like a generic church steeple (one of Grandin’s favorite examples). In Grandin’s case, she says that if she is told to imagine a church steeple, she has to call up in her mind an exact image of particular church steeple not something that is more abstract or generic which suggests that the more obscure the colloquialism or metaphor, the likelihood that the meaning may not be fully understood. I try to force myself to communicate with my son in a very exact manner rather than call up some common phrase that on the surface seems to be suggesting something else.

    On a side note, many on the spectrum also exhibit photographic memory. My son never misspells anything starting when he was three years old playing with his magnetic letters. My sense is that he memorizes the specific shapes of the letters in a name as it’s presented to his eyes in a complete spelled out way – usually the name of a movie – then he recalls that entire image and is able to correctly replicate it every time. He’s also fascinated by different fonts and will sometimes fast forward to the end of movies to watch the end credits as they scroll by. I have a feeling he could be filing away that profuse amount of information somewhere in his brain.

    But, it actually goes beyond storing precise images for my son. One Christmas, when he was about seven or eight years old, he was given a 5-CD set of Disney movie music. Each disc had a different colored silkscreened label (green, yellow, purple, blue, orange). As we sat in the driveway ready to depart our friends’ home in San Diego and return home, our son instructed us to insert each CD into the car’s CD player and play each track for about 4 seconds until we had gone through every track on every CD. My former wife and I were a bit perplexed at what was going on until on the drive home from the backseat he would request a song. “Sleeping Beauty” he’d command. “What color?” I’d ask. “Yellow”, he’d respond. “What track?”, “18”, he responded. Sure enough, he was right. And he continued the process without mistake all the way home with every song he requested. In the space of about nine or ten minutes or less, he had memorized the location of every song on each and every CD of the 5 CD set. I only wish I had grown up with that talent. I probably would have done much better in school.

    • #30
    • August 27, 2017, at 4:00 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
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