While hanging out at my parent’s house a while back, Courtney asked to go outside in the backyard. Because of all the rain, the backyard was muddy and all I can picture was Courtney (my little Peppa Pig) being covered in mud from head to toe so I said no. My dad, her grandpa, was near her when I said no. She did not like my answer nor did she like that Grandpa was holding the sliding door shut so she lunged toward him to attack him in anger. My dad, who has been attacked by his little granddaughter before, asked me curiously, “so what happens when she’s older and stronger?”
Good question, Dad. I only wish I knew. What I can say is it is something I think about daily. I don’t just think about it, I worry about it. I’ve actually asked a similar question as a teacher in regards to some of my students who have aggressive tendencies. Since I was only their preschool teacher they would move on so I wouldn’t worry too much. I have to worry with Courtney though.
There is something about a child with autism having a meltdown. Their strength becomes unimaginable. Their fight or flight kicks in and suddenly they are as strong as a bull. Now imagine that child an adult! This scares me.
Fortunately the frequency of her aggressive tendencies isn’t out of control but it is frequent enough that it happens daily wether it’s towards someone or herself. It happens frequent enough that i actually get nervous when she is interacting with someone in close proximity because it can happen out of nowhere. It happens frequent enough that instead of trying to get her to get in a group picture at a kids party, I choose to not bother because it’s bound to end with her pinching someone. It happens frequent enough that when a new doctor, educator or therapist asks me to describe Courtney I make sure to share that she can be aggressive. It happens frequent enough that I worry about if friends and family will grow to fear being near her as she gets older and stronger.
I struggle the most when Courtney hurts another child. She recently pinched another child at my nieces birthday party. The parent of this child knows Courtney and her struggles so she explained to her daughter that Courtney didn’t do it to be mean. The mom made the comment that it’s so hard to explain that to a young child. Right there is why I struggle with it. The next day Courtney bit her cousin because I took a piece of candy from her. I could see in my nieces eyes how hard she was trying to hold in the tears and act brave. I was so proud of how brave she was being but felt horrible that she felt she had to hold in how much it hurt. My sister and I both shedded some brief tears later when I asked how my niece was. She shared that she was scared but also sad that her cousin couldn’t talk.
I realize that this point in the game I’m only driving myself crazy for worrying about this all now because if there is one certain thing about autism it’s that there is no way to predict the future when they are young.
At this point I have to take comfort in knowing that we are doing all we can to make sure these behaviors improve. I have to take comfort in knowing that those who truly care for my family understand that Courtney acts out because of her inability to communicate. I have to take comfort in knowing that these same people will continue to love and support her throughout this bumpy journey. Through the ups and downs, the laughs and the tears, the celebrations and the frustrations. Because this is autism.
(The photo is of Courtney with her Great Aunt. We watched this beautiful moment with caution hoping it stayed beautiful, which it did. Not surprised my amazing aunt can such a beautiful moment with her.)