Over the years, we have struggled with multiple behaviors that involved Eddie hurting himself or others. In the beginning, he often would mostly cause injury to himself. He would hit himself in the head, hit his head on the floor or on a wall, or use objects as personal weapons. Watching this behavior was very upsetting and we struggled with ways to deter it. Over time, we redirected this behavior, and see it less often.
However, we are now seeing him lash out to others, which is in some ways more unsettling. The first time we saw this was through biting at the age of two or three. It came to a point where we were nervous to have him rest his head on our shoulder because we anticipated getting bit at any time. It doesn’t matter who you are, when you are bit at the nape of your neck, the first instinct is to through or drop the child. Luckily, Eddie fared better than that, but the sheer anticipation was enough to make us edgy.
He has moved past biting, but now is the master of pinching. Every time he becomes upset, he reaches out for the nearest flesh. It can be a parent, a teacher, a sibling, or an innocent bystander. He is an equal opportunity pincher. At school, his poor aide has marks on her hand from his daily abuse. Even though she tries to be on the look-out, he can be as quick as a snake and get her before she even has a chance to flinch. Hearing about that, and witnessing the behavior, is extremely hard for me.
I understand that his sensory impairments make it hard for him to stop himself, but that doesn’t make it easier to witness. My son is the cause of pain for people that love and care for him, and making him see reason has been useless. We continue to work on different approaches, including alternative coping mechanisms, but the progress is slow and painful…literally.
Yesterday, Eddie pinched me so hard it brought tears to my eyes. After evaluation, I realized it wasn’t the pinch that caused the damage; it was mostly that he hurt my feelings. Even though I know he doesn’t always understand his behavior, my own child hurt me and I couldn’t help but feel sad. I think those of us with children who have special needs often encounter problems we can’t solve quickly that cause us emotional pain, if not more.
Even though his behavior cannot be ignored, I try to remember that his motivations differ from the typical child. He does not want to hurt me out of anger, but out of his personal frustration and agitation. I continue to reach deep inside for patience that must be there somewhere. Right? I do not see myself as overly patient in general, but I think I’ve learned to dig some up when I need it. That is maybe the best coping skill us parents can have, patience. With that, we can handle almost any situation, no matter how painful it can be.