What It's Really Like To Raise a Child with Autism

"Behavioral Seizure"

We leave the playground and head up to the bluffs. I follow Ben as he walks -- and walks and walks -- along the long driftwood fence that separates us from the lake. Later on, I'll realize that Ben was probably trying to get close to the water, which is why he was willing to walk so far. But at the time, I simply follow as he trudges along.

After going well beyond what I think is wise, I say, "Okay, time to go back." But Ben pushes onward. If he were 4 years old, I could scoop him up onto my shoulders and that would be that. But he is too big to lift, let alone carry. I have no recourse.

I set my sights on the turn in the road up ahead, hoping Ben will somehow see the slight change of direction as a good place to turn around. He doesn't, and we don't. I become more and more concerned, finally turning back myself and saying, "Okay, Ben, I'm going back now. Bye-bye." Luckily, he follows me.

My good mood restored, we are about three minutes into our long haul back when the tantrum begins. Actually, the word "tantrum" doesn't really do justice to what's happening. Some behavioral specialists use the term "behavioral seizure," which, in its clinical cleanliness, also misses the mark. I have yet to come up with a phrase that captures it. It's one of those things where "ya hadda be there."; But you don't want to be.

Ben stops walking and starts hopping on one foot. He screams and hits himself with full force on the sides of his head. He bends forward at the waist, flings himself back up, screeches loudly, smashes himself in the face with his left hand, and then sobs, all in about five seconds. Uh-oh. I realize we have gone too far.

I grab him by the wrists and say, "Come on, Ben. We have to walk to the car. No hitting." He screams again. He shifts into dead weight and crumples to the ground. Now he is on all fours on the sidewalk, slapping himself in the face.

"Come on, Ben," I say. "Let's get to the car and have a bottle."

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment