It happened. It actually happened. I got the dreaded call from the Assistant Director of Joey’s school called and informed me that Joey was outside her office with an in school suspension. My heart sank as she and I talked. Any parent dreads this kind of call. But when you have an autistic child who struggles socially, and hates school – you kind of expect to get this call but hope you never get it.
The day of the incident
It was like any normal pick up. I went to Joey’s school and asked him how is day went. He told me it was fine, but I caught his teacher’s eye in passing. She gave me the look, that it was a rough day.
We didn’t have a chance to talk then, but she told me she would call me later. Lucky for me, she just so happened to be at our pool that evening as our kids were at swim team practice. She was able to tell me what happened.
Joey and his friend were working on an engineering project together. The kids were given supplies in a box to use to build their design. My little perfectionist didn’t have enough tools and asked another student if he could use some if hers and she said no. He didn’t like that answer so he kicked her in the nose. It was so bad she started bleeding and had to go to the nurse’s office.
As she is telling me this, all I could think was, what the fuck. He kicked someone in the face!!! Who is this kid if mine?? I could not believe what I was hearing. I asked if he apologized and she said he did.
What set him off
Because I know my son, I needed to know the details of what led him to his actions. If I know the full details, we can back track so that we can correct this behavior so it doesn’t happen again.
Here is what his therapist told me happened:
On Wednesday afternoon, Joey and his partner were given their most recent project in a zip-lock bag after the class was given a lesson and instructions. Joey went to the table with his partner, pulled out his old project and began to reconstruct it according to the picture of the item he had drawn from the last lesson. Joey appeared frustrated by his vocalizations and yelling that there were not enough pieces in his bag to complete the project and peers “stole them” out of his bag.
He ran over to another team’s mat and took the piece he wanted. I redirected him to return it to his classmate and prompted that he could ask to use the connector piece he needed. I also promoted Joey asked that if this friend said no, we could ask another friend. The peer said “no” and Joey vocalized that this was not the answer he wanted, but returned the piece. I was behind Joey and prompted him “It’s a little deal. Let’s ask another friend.” Joey turned and asked another friend and this friend handed him the piece he needed. Joey returned to his work using the piece given to him, but vocalized it was still not enough.
He ran over to a different team picked up the piece and asked to borrow it. The team said “no” and Joey returned the piece. Again, I prompted that it was a little deal, if a friend says no we can always ask someone else.
Joey approached the peer (whom he kicked) and asked for a connector piece. The peer responded “no” and covered the pieces with her hands. Joey attempted to punch her. As I to placed myself between Joey and the peer to separate them, Joey swung his leg and kicked.
Joey appeared very escalated during this entire work time. From Joey’s vocalizations was focused on obtaining the pieces he wanted and was frustrated that he didn’t have them. He also vocalized that they were “stolen” from his bag. He was running back and forth from his work area to his classmates’ work areas. I remained as closely behind him as I was able, prompted him through his conversations with peers (i.e. friends saying no were a little deal; we can ask a different classmate if our friend says no) and modeling deep breathing.
After the incident, I removed Joey to a chair near the door of the classroom. I did a zone check with Joey using a feelings chart and he said he was “furious.” Then I asked him how the classmate he kicked was feeling, Joey responded “hurt.” As his classmate left, I explained that she was going to the nurse to get back to “green” (the green zone). I asked Joey what would get him back to green. He said a break with the Guidance Counselor and appropriately asked the substitute teacher to visit the Guidance Counselor.
The Guidance Counselor’s room was not available so we took a break in the hallway. The Guidance Counselor gave us some books to read. Joey and I talked about how we could have handled the situation differently (using our words and not our hands) and what Joey could do to help our classmate get back to the green zone (apologize). I gave Joey examples of different ways to apologize. When the break was over I escorted Joey to the hurt classmate to apologize. Joey refused and said “I’m not sorry.” I tried modeling the apology for Joey but he again said “I’m not sorry.” The class was getting ready for circle time before dismissal. He vocalized more frustrations, so I prompted him to take a break until his body was calm to join class. Joey sat in the red chair and engaged in vocalized frustrations/yelling and refused to complete the modeled breathing and calming strategies.
We also need to figure out how to discipline him to wear it sinks in with him. Whatever we’ve tried hasn’t worked. I totally get the school’s position. They have to do something. What Joey did was unacceptable. They talked about sending him home, but his therapist at school, the teacher, and Guidance Counselor thought that Joey would see it as a reward, not a punishment, especially with his struggles with school. But, putting him at a desk away from the kids so he could do is work, I don’t think sends a clear message to him either.
I am meeting with Joey’s therapists to discuss what we can do for him. I’m scared for him. I’m sad for him. I so badly want to help him, I just don’t know how to help him best.
Being a parent is fucking hard. Being a parent to a child with Special Needs…. it’s a whole other ball game. Throw every parenting rule out the window and cross your fingers. You just hope for the best and learn as you go.