Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
My 11 year old nonverbal son has had rages that scare me. His brother is also on the spectrum and he fears the police will come as a result of Matthew’s screaming throughout the house.
These episodes are not frequent, but still exasperate me to the core. I try various approaches to see what will work, but most times it has to come full circle and then we are back to our kind of normal household.
During these rages I think either to myself or out loud about Matthew going outside and letting it out or just get out of the house until he stops the screaming. This time I opened the door and put him out there. I stood at the closed screen door and told him he could come back in when he stopped.
The street is right there with the parking on the other side and some guy up the street was coming out of his car and looked at me. The neighbor to the right was in his driveway working on his car and did not look in my direction. I wondered if he would call the police since I have called on his car exhaust entering my residence many times.
The feeling when it is all over wondering if CPS is coming over or the police is so overwhelming you wonder if you will come up for air or vomit. This instance while Matthew was running through the house screaming and banging on windows and walls I broke out and just cried. The emotions going through me were when is this going to end and can’t he just shut up and is he going to hurt me or Nicholas. Nicholas was just as exasperated sitting in the living room thankful that his kitten was inside his cage safe and sound. He said something to the fact that the cat would probably be dead if he was free.
I worried when Matthew leaned up against the bookcase and started pulling things off of it. I thought it would fall on top of him. I ran into the room and looked at him with my hand pointed toward the door and screamed for him to get out. Then he ran into the bedroom and pounded the wall and the window. This resulted in a picture falling off the wall, but missed hitting him.
While all this was occurring Matthew was pulling the string that is inside his pants and moving his pants all the way up his body. I thought he was trying to remove the string from his pants like he did with another pair. He was going nuts with his body moving his hands all over his clothing like it was on fire or something. Then he would break out in tears and the heavy breathing that accompanies erratic crying started. I was tempted to hug him and do some deep pressure, yet at the same time I was scared he would knock my teeth out or scratch my face.
I went to the cabinet and grabbed his medication, an antipsychotic called Geodon and opened up a capsule and dumped a pinch inside his bottle and poured soymilk in there and shook it up before placing on the table for Matthew to grab. This is one of the reasons that Matthew still drinks a bottle as it seems to be the only thing that can calm him down. Over five years of feeding therapy did nothing to help lose the bottle or to assist me in finding other calming and soothing methods for Matthew.
I let Matthew outside twice during this battle and then felt comfortable enough to give him a hug and some deep pressure. At one point he grabbed the purple oblong exercise ball and tossed it over to the couch. This scared Nicholas since he was on the couch and felt the couch move from Matthew’s force.
So what exactly put Matthew over the edge? He had been playing with a cat toy Nicholas picked out at Target the other day and the string came off the toy. Nicholas had tied it back on and then it looked like Matthew wanted it off, so Nicholas complied and then the turmoil started. I never did time how long Matthew was in this rage, but it seemed to be about 15 minutes.
Matthew really needs to touch items in the house constantly. This includes banging with the palm of his hand the walls and knocking things off and moving wall decorations. I keep copy paper in a few manila envelopes, which Matthew likes to rub with his fingers. There is a plastic container with dividers that contain photographs. Matthew likes to bring this to the kitchen island and look through it for various photos.
Awhile back I did research online for therapy related items to help with the palm banging and found spiky gloves and passed on order them. I think now I will get these as a backup plan, as well as the Open Palm Hand Weights.
Once back to life as we know it Nicholas came into the kitchen as I was in my crying jag and asked if I needed a hug. I told him not now and just needed a good cry. Then I realized that Nicholas really needed a hug so I helped him calm down and talk it out. Once several years ago Matthew had an episode at Rite Aid. When we got home Nicholas drew a diagram that was quite upsetting. It showed him hurting Matthew and calling him names. We had a discussion on how to deal with these issues that seemed to help Nicholas at the time. I am glad that he has the drawing outlet to relieve the tension and express his emotions. I reacted to the incident with some ice cream to calm my nerves and once Matthew was calm I felt safe enough to change his diaper.
Several weeks ago Matthew broke the VCR combo television set. I looked online for where to get another one and they did not seem to have any, so I bought a combo DVD/VCR that is on the dresser next to the television and placed masking tape over the VCR opening on the TV. Matthew continually takes off the tape and shoves videos in there. This causes the television to shut down and then the tape needs to be fixed. He has watched a few videos in the machine, but he does not know how to use the buttons on that machine or the remote and likes to press the rewind and fast forward buttons to see the moves in those modes. Unfortunately my timecard got lost in the mail and they are behind in two paychecks to me and so once that issue is resolved we will go to Sears and hopefully find a new TV/VCR combo television. This should help Matthew’s behavior, but as he is hitting adolescence and growth spurts I feel this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as behavior and rages go.
It could also be a number of other things that caused Matthew into this rage episode, especially since he is nonverbal. This could range from dental issues to stomach pain, being hungry, stuck indoors and wanting to be outside, too much chocolate, puberty issue, tired of wearing a diaper, or who knows. The hard part is decoding it all and trying to help alleviate his discomfort and avoiding another meltdown. So much of the information found online is for behavior issues at school where there are more adults to help in determining the antecedent (precursor that set off the rage in the first place).
I decided to do a google search to help me find information about rages. These are the phrases I utilized:
How to help parent deal with enraged child with autism during an episode?
Scared of your child
Are other parents scared of the rages within their autistic child?
What happens when an autistic child has a severe behavior episode?
I learned that using scared brought up many links about vaccines. I tried using words like behavior and crisis to find better matches. These links are the ones that seemed to be worth saving for me to read over:
YAACK - AAC Connecting Young Kids
The Good Child Guide - this is a pdf ebook for $37 or a hard-copy book for $47 plus S&H. I am almost desperate enough to get this. It mentions autism, aspergers and ADHD. The site accepts paypal.
Challenging Behaviour and Autism: Making Sense - Making Progress - $21.95 book through Autism Asperger Publishing Company.
Psychiatric Hospitalization Among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders - This is an excerpt, - “Data were collected from 760 caregivers of children with ASD. Youth in single parent homes were more likely to be hospitalized.”
Shutdowns and Stress in Autism
Findings of families with autistic children
Communication and Behavior Problems
understanding and managing behaviour in children and young people with autism
Dealing with a screaming child while inside a store