On my son’s 4th birthday, he threw an etch-a-sketch at my head. Of course, he hit an artery and blood started gushing like I had been slashed with a machete. My other children were horrified, hysterical and completely panicked. My son looked at me and said matter of factly, “I didn’t know you would bleed from your head”. He didn’t apologize, didn’t cry and was absolutely not terrified by the amount of blood pouring from my head. Welcome to life with Asperger’s.
After a quick trip to the emergency room and a big bandage on my face, we went to his My Gym birthday party to celebrate. I strategically tried to place the hair over my bandaged face but it was impossible. I felt like a battered, abused wife trying to cover my secret. At this point, I desperately wanted my son to be like the other 4 year olds in the room. I didn’t want them to know he had the ability to hurt me. I remember wishing that it was my husband that had hurt me. Abusive husbands you can leave. Abusive children you cannot. Say what you want (I am sure I will get a lot of scathing comments) but any special education mom has had at least one moment where they wanted to pack their bags and run. Be honest.
Of course, my son didn’t intentionally hurt me. He lashed out and I happened to be in his path. His reaction is typical of kids with Asperger’s- very literal and almost no emotion. I wanted to shake him, make him understand that he should be feeling sad that he just hurt his mommy. But he wasn’t and years later, he still says “mom, remember when I threw the etch-a sketch at your head? I didn’t know you would bleed from your head.”
I never thought emotions could be taught. I was wrong. Years of behavioral therapy showing my son pictures of faces with different emotions, acting out the emotions and lots and lots of teaching by example have helped him be able to identify and demonstrate his feelings. He has always allowed me to hug and kiss him, but the other day, he hugged me on his OWN!!! Progress.
I will leave some advice for our moms with newly diagnosed children. Hide the etch-a-sketch, Mr. Potato Head can be vicious and you may want to rethink buying any kind of sword/wand or heavy guitar. They can really leave a mark. And remember, above all else, if you are bleeding from your head and you think it really can’t get any worse, allow yourself to be sad and cry. You just might teach your child with special needs how to express emotions.