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

"Autistic tantrums are the best."

Yes, my son is 8, taller than his grandmother, and heavier than his mother, but he still drinks diluted apple juice out of a baby bottle. He loves it (it soothes him), so we give it to him. It is also handy for giving him medication, since he is extremely defensive when it comes to ingesting all but a few foods and drinks.

I am hoping the offer of a bottle will be my carrot on a stick, but it doesn't work. I bend down and try to pull him to his feet from behind, my arms under his. He stands up, screams, jumps, and then flails, knocking off my glasses and hitting my nose hard enough to bring tears to my eyes.

"Damn it, Ben!" I reflexively blurt out.

Shifting into my numb, task-oriented mode, I stand behind him to hold him up and push him along. I am sweating, my back is aching, my ears are ringing, and I don't know if I can keep this up for another third of a mile. I do know that I don't have much choice.

After another dozen steps, Ben tries to jump up and down, and then slides to the ground. He lies flat on his belly, bouncing his face on the asphalt, screaming. I only now notice the spectacle we're creating.

A car has turned around and come back, the passengers staring. I wave faux-cheerily at them, understanding their concern but at the same time wanting to flip them the bird and ask if they've paid for tickets. "Autistic tantrums are the best," I yell out. The spectators say nothing.

Ben makes another little leap, loses his balance, and tumbles to the sidewalk. In fear, I look at his arm, which seems to have taken the brunt of the fall. I am worried that he might have broken it. Less than two years ago, Ben misjudged a step, fell, and broke his wrist. I am imagining a repeat, but he gets to his feet and starts to slap himself again.

Maybe no broken bones, I think to myself, but he will have bruises on his face this week.

I am half-expecting a cop to pull up, which I would half-welcome. "You feel like serving and protecting?" I'd ask. "How about serving us a lift to our car and protecting us from the rest of this tantrum?" But the cops don't come.

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