Last Tuesday my sister Connie had to have a surgery.
When they wheeled her away, I went to the waiting room with my oldest sister, my brother, Bill and various other family members. While we were there my oldest sister’s work supervisor came into the waiting room to offer moral support and see how all was going.
The supervisor is a young mother of two boys, ages 8 and 9. The 9-year-old resembled Cody so much at that age it was uncanny. And as it turns out, he also is on the autism spectrum. I couldn’t stop staring at him. He had so many of the same characteristics and behaviors that Cody exhibited all those years ago.
My sister Pam had told me a little bit about this young woman and the challenges that she and her son were experiencing. Violent outbursts—aimed at both himself and others—were a problem. His predisposition to restlessness was very obvious. I could see the agitation growing in this child and the more fidgety he grew, the more anxious Mom became.
I watched how many times she turned her attention away from conversation to make sure her son was still holding it together. As time went on her glances in his direction became more frequent. Dad was there as well. It almost appeared as if Mom and Dad were taking turns watching the boys—that look of angst on their faces—the one that just speaks so loudly and clearly to the fact that these parents were on alert for that one spark that could light the fuse that would detonate the fiery explosion they were so dreadfully anticipating.
Then Dad confirmed my suspicions:
Dad: “Well we’re going to go.”
My Sister: “You don’t have to go just yet on our account.”
Dad: “No we need to go before the meds wear off.”
Mom: “We have this visit perfectly timed.”
How well I remember those days. Oh my heart went out to them!
How I wished I could have had a chance to talk to them about the struggles they were going through and to express my compassion and understanding.
Cody had many of those same battles. And while there were no meds that helped subdue those battles, what it did take was time, dedication, patience, and repetition of loving methods of discipline.
It took many reminders that he had to be in control of his behavior. It took reminding him over and over that outbursts would not achieve any goal he wanted to achieve. It took restraint to remain calm, but firm. There were times when Cody would go into meltdown mode and I would sit him on the sofa. For hours he would yell, cry, hit, kick and scream obscenities at me because every time he attempted to get down I sat him right back up there. And for a while that fueled the fires even more, but it’s what I had to do.
I would tell him in the beginning that when he could behave appropriately, and speak to me calmly and respectfully we would talk and then he could get down. Until then I sat in front of him and would not look at his face or speak to him. I deflected his physical attempts to lash out by blocking kicks and punches with my hands and arms. The verbal ones I ignored. After what seemed like an eternity he eventually became calm and we were able to come to a peaceable resolution to whatever it was that had set his rage in motion.
Was it difficult to do that? Absolutely! Was it exhausting, frustrating and heart wrenching? Yes, yes and yes! Did I want to just break down in tears? Oh yeah! But as the years passed these episodes began to happen less often. Cody hasn’t had one in years now.
Conquering those behaviors was by no means easy. There were times it took me to my knees. But there is hope through resolving oneself to help a child or even an adult overcome those behaviors with simple techniques like these. It does require great tenacity when it comes to simply standing your ground with love and determination. But for us, the amazing results were worth every moment of trial.