Last month I received a message from my son’s case manager that one of the women who attends a day program and carpools with him; hit, scratched, and broke his glasses. My first concern was “Is he ok?” The answer was “yes.” My next concern was “Did he strike back?” The answer was “no.”
This was a big step for Lathom. As much as we want him to defend and stand up for himself, we have been teaching non-violence and how to move away from someone who threatens him. This encourages problem-solving and keeping one’s emotions in control. The fact that he was in a van with other people from the day program and could not move away, and still managed to keep a cool head speaks volumes. I gave him his spare pair of glasses (I kept them for emergencies) and the group home personnel took him to the eye doctor for an exam and a new pair of glasses. They also moved the woman who attacked him to a different van. He was still upset when he came home that weekend and proceeded to tell me, in his words, what had happened. I was amazed at his ability to recount clearly and deliberately what had occurred and he informed me that “[the woman] had bad behavior”. There was a maturity in his voice that had once been fleeting or non-existent.
A few days ago I received a message that another person who was sitting behind Lathom in the van hit him on the back of the head. Lathom was shaken up, but not seriously hurt. Again, he did not strike back. Lathom called me later and informed me in a very calm and straightforward voice what had happened and that “[the other person] had bad behavior and won’t be riding in my van anymore”. Again, there was maturity in his voice.
Last week the day program informed me that Lathom had moved up to the next education level. They have embraced him with grace and understanding. They know that Lathom needs to feel safe and that even if he is out of control, he knows they are “calmly” in control and will redirect him with whatever patience necessary. They have also welcomed, worked with, listened to and used the techniques that a certified behavior therapist has demonstrated. This is Lathom’s 6th and best day program he has ever attended. They are truly a godsend for him and he continues to inspire me every day.
Will Lathom have bad behavior? Probably (nobody is perfect). Will he strike back if someone hits or kicks him again? We hope not, but cannot be sure. The key is applauding the good behavior and redirecting the bad. It is an ongoing process with someone on the autism spectrum and will always be two steps forward and one step back. So right now I will enjoy this moment of forward progression and appreciate the fact that Lathom continues to grow and improve at a pace that is almost normal.