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Assulted by Five Year Old

sheila_in_woods's picture


Background: have been divorced for about 3 years and dating a man with a five year old son for about a year. He has sole custody of the boy, there is no mother in the picture. We have been discussing moving in together.

The child is mildly (very high functioning) Autistic. Has a once in awhile meltdown. Also has a once in awhile all out TEMPER TANTRUM unrelated to his Autism (I "think" -- I've done some research and "learned" that a child in an Autistic meltdown won't look to see if you are reacting - but a child having a temper tantrum WILL).

Anyhoo...if you are still reading...thank you.

The other night I was at SO's house - babysitting...while he worked the night shift. Child woke for the day at 4:10 a.m. - he tends to do that. By 4:30 a.m., he was in full meltdown mode - for no reason that I found apparent.

Then...for the first time EVER (although he has done it to his teachers at school) - he spent the next FOUR HOURS hitting me, kicking me, scratching me, biting me, pinching me and spitting on me. I refuse to use physical violence on a child - I could only restrain him and "protect" myself. Indeed, this went on for FOUR HOURS - except once in awhile he would "take a break" from abusing ME...

to climb onto the table, counters, etc. - throw and stomp on the remote control. Put a HOLE in the kitchen wall by slamming a door knob into it, tear apart a magazine, throw books, toys, etc. FOUR HOURS of this.

SO's mother finally arrived to take over (she was LATE so I was LATE for work and couldn't even take a shower because the kid was out of control) and she sort of implied that it was my fault by saying "well I usually make him go back to bed when he gets up that early."

I love my SO and I love the child...but obviously I am rethinking things/having doubts. If this is going to be my FUTURE...and the child can already really hurt me...think what he'll be able to do in a few years...well, I don't want it.

He's in therapy, counseling, behavior modification, on some medication and all that...

Thing is...I don't think this was an "Autistic Meltdown"...he kept looking at me to get my when he was throwing books at the wall and I was IGNORING him...he would look back to see what I was doing. So...being a brat??? What???

Like I said - first time this has happened. We have had a very decent relationship prior to this, spend a lot of time together, get along well. I got a call from dad...was I alright and he's sorry, blah, blah, blah...haven't talked with him since...that was Thursday morning.

Just looking for feedback I guess. Anyone have experience with an autistic "step child"? Would you run like the wind? Would you confront the child and try to discuss it? Let me have it kids...looking forward to your replies. Thank you for your time reading.

Orange County Ca's picture

It's one thing for grandma but I for one would not volunteer any longer. Too many good people out there to start families with. Can you imagine a 17yo doing this? Twenty five? These "disabled" kids are often coddled and keep around by parents - sometimes forever.

FYI in legal parlance you were battered. Assault being the threat. He didn't threaten you he just did it. In my mind I'm picturing a chimpanzee running amok in the house.

sheila_in_woods's picture

That is my concern - he is a strong little boy and will only get stronger. At this point I am able to protect myself and stop him from hitting or biting or whatever...but what about in 5 years? Ten years?

ctnmom's picture

Amen OCC! Why is it when a kid is disabled they can bite and kick people and meltdown? Wouldn't happen in my house!

Poodle's picture

Yup, you'd no doubt tie him to a pole with a rope in the back shed like they do in third world villages.

ctnmom's picture

No, I would lovingly raise them just like I raised my other kids. Who were not allowed to bit, kick, or have meltdowns. That's patently ridiculous. And I never, EVER hit my kids, so I don't mean corporal punishment.

Poodle's picture

(sigh) autism is not caused by poor parenting. I would suggest you educate yourself on the subject before taking a judgmental stance on either this child or his carers. It's a real shame to see this sort of competitive blame game on a site where I've felt there was a high level of consciousness about parenting generally. OCC was simply graphically describing how appallingly these kids can behave and what a burden they can be to a family, but you are out to condemn their carers and vaunt your own hypothetical glory as a parent. I prefer OCC's humility personally.

ctnmom's picture

I'm not "vaunting my glory"! WOW. My older kids grew up alongside a family with 6 kids- one was autistic. He was treated like all their other kids. He would begin to meltdown, but be nipped in the bud. I'm not condemning anybody.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Absolutely spot on aswang. You can put your heart and soul into it. You can take them to therapy and counseling and invest all kinds of time and love in them. You can prepare them for changes, events, etc. to the best of your ability.

And then you can only hope for the best - after having done the best you can.

Delilah's picture

I will admit I know little about autism however I am unsure how your SO mother is qualified to conclude that 4 hours of physical violence from this 5 yr old was somehow your fault?! Was she somehow psychically present to witness what triggered this tantrum? Does she think, even IF you inadvertantly triggered a massively negative reaction from ss5, that its ok for you to experience this and to more or less inform you that you asked it? I am betting even the most experienced care worker in this field has had situations occur when a child has disliked something or other and has kicked off! The reason this child has so many professionals attempting to help ss is because he needs the help, its a work in progress and clearly as he has behaved like this for THEM (ya know the ones who have trained for years to understand)then its something that cannot be blamed on you. Sorry but your future mil sounds like a bit of a judgemental, uncaring bitch. What has SO said about this?

Personally I think you need to take a step back, having to experience a 4 hour long physical tirade even from a small child is NOT fun nor fair to you(got to say, the fact he kept checking for your responses tells me at some level he was assessing your reaction and had some understanding of the situation -but again I would assume your OH would have given you some professional insight into ss behaviour. I also agree that in some cases, not saying yours necessarily, that children with behaviour problems can be provided with too many excuses which does not help them learn what is acceptable and what is not in time!). I must admit I am unsure why your OH would risk this happening with you, he knows he is capable of sustained physical outbursts, although appreciate it only usually happens elsewhere, but there was still a risk and having him overnight when he is an early riser again increases the chances of you having to manage a situation you are ignorant of. Its not fair to you nor ss. I think you would have every right to inform OH that you are out of your depth, that it scared you (he scared you) and neither will you stand for being effectively blamed by mil when you were helping them out by choice. If this affects oh working pattern, then sorry but its tough as you do need to consider your own sanity and safety, as that is not acceptable!

sheila_in_woods's picture

Thank you for your reply and comments - much appreciated! I have been there many times when he wakes up, got him ready for school, etc. with no problems. This was a first. But I'm not sure it will be the last.

sheila_in_woods's picture

I my untrained eyes...NOTHING triggered this. He got up from the breakfast table, started kicking the refrigerator...moved a chair over and climbed onto the frige - took down a toy baseball bat and started beating the walls with it and saying "I'm going to break all the windows."

I got that away from and hid it - then hid a pair of scissors and some other stuff.

He was mad at ME for some reason I think. The magazine he destroyed was mine. We usually sit together and look through the magazines I bring. This time he seemed to take great pleasure in destroying what belonged to me.

Could he be conflicted because he loves me and thinks his loyalty should be to his mom? (who, by the way is in prison for possession of drugs and selling drugs - while pregnant for child #5 with baby daddy #5).

Poodle's picture

I've got an ASD son and what you've been told about the difference between checking your reaction or not and whether it's a true meltdown or not is not in my view accurate. You can only judge each ASD person's meltdowns and what they exactly mean if you know them very well indeed, otherwise it's only an educated guess; and rules of thumb like you've been given don't apply generally anyway. I've not even heard that one and I'm heavily involved with this area both personally and professionally.
What's clear is that you were not provided with the equipment to deal with this behavior by your DH; you should have been warned of the triggers and the behavioral methods that worked to calm this kid. Every ASD kid can be calmed, often easily, but only with the relevant knowhow. You are totally not responsible for the situation you found yourself in and I'm really sorry that you were so unsupported. If this kid is high functioning and has not behaved this way before you ought not to be too concerned for the future so long as the kid is properly supported by your partner and any professionals he deals with. But it is fair to say that if this sort of violence is the norm for this kid even at this age, you are indeed going to face some risk as he grows older. Particularly in the early adolescent period a boy who is physically out of control like this can be very hard to cope with as a single carer. If it is a one off and not something the boy usually displays then I would be a lot more hopeful that your DH can arrange some behavioral training for himself as a parent such as to prevent too much recurrence. The beauty of autism is that it is often a very predictable behavior disorder and once the kids know the rules of the household then they are far better behaved than neurotypicals. Throughout my OBS's childhood (he's now a happy and well balanced 16YO going on to great things) all I had to say to him was 1-2-3 when things were going awry, and he completely obeyed anything that we as parents expected of him. Totally courtly. But the same child, if brought up without the techniques we used, would have been an antisocial brat by now. It's all in the parenting. Your DH has to sort that out.

sheila_in_woods's picture

The child has a very structured life for the most part - very rigid routines...breakfast at 6:30, medication at 7:00...etc. etc.

The thing is - these violent outbursts NEVER happen with dad. N.E.V.E.R...not since he was two years old (age of diagnosis) and would bang his head into his father's. They ONLY happen with teachers...until this time...with me.

Now...maybe I'm being too hard on the child...but if he can control himself when dad is around...then he can control himself...right?

He is very verbal, learns in counseling about making good choices and the consequences of good and bad choices - and demonstrates understanding.

I'm just...lost.

Thank you so much for your response and the information - it is appreciated!

Poodle's picture

Wrong. Autism makes a person very very dependent upon their environment. You can almost diagnose autism by the way that a person is so different in one situation to another. The classic is the child is an angel at school and devil at home, or vice versa. In particular they will have very different relationships to different people. Which is why your DH needs to get training and to pass that on to you if you are to be a sole carer. I've now read the bit about his mom. This is very worrying. If she has contact in the future she could undo all the work your DH would have done with the child and be an extremely destabilizing factor. That alone could be an important negative in the scales of how things are going to pan out for you as a SM with a child of this sort.

jumanji's picture

Why didn't you call Dadw when hings got out of hand? So what if he was working? His kid was having a problem and it was on him to deal with.

I would walk away.

SanAntonioSoccerMom's picture

My thoughts too, that and why would you sit there and let a child hit you for 4 hours?

sheila_in_woods's picture

I didn't "let" him hit me - I would restrain him and stop him and he would go on to something destroying the remote control or throwing books at the wall...then would come back at me a while later.

I am thinking he KNEW what he was doing...he actually announced..."I am going to spit on you." To which I replied..."NO, you are NOT." And then he did...

Also worth noting...after he put the hole in the wall with the door knob, his whole demeanor changed...he INSTANTLY calmed down, got on the sofa, started to cry...looked all worried...and said

"Please don't tell my dad about the hole int the wall." Now come on...the kid knew what he was doing...I think...

Please tell me what you think.

Poodle's picture

Your analysis feels wrong to me. You are projecting your own analysis onto his actions. Kids with ASD cannot think joined up or about consequences. Please don't get into a blame game with this kid or the idea that he is somehow playing you. The fact that you were put in the position where you as the carer were obliged to allow this meltdown to go on for that long shows that you have not been given the tools to support him by your DH. A meltdown should never last this long and it is clear that he did not feel contained. This will have been a desperate experience for him. I'm seriously not criticizing you but your DH has got to step up to the plate and get some training for himself so that he can give you the behavioral tools if he wants to delegate to you. But I agree with the other posters that he should not be delegating to you if the kid behaves this way when you are in sole care.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Thank you. This is the first time this has happened - other times he has been in my care have been fine.

May I ask you one favor...please...the child's father is NOT my husband...and the sight of the DH...makes my teeth itch, him anything him late for dinner...but please don't call him my DH, lol!!!

Sorry, don't mean to nit-pick but I was married for 26 years and I am violently allergic to the institution!

SO does meet with a counselor every other week and also goes to his son's counseling sessions and is in a support group at a local family resource center. The child also has an advocate of some kind who helps with resources for him and the family. She helped us find a facility where we can go with the child to learn more and get some training. It is a couple of hours away and we haven't gone yet but SO has been in touch with them and we will be going.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Thank you for your reply. I am absolutely leaning toward walking away.

Dad was 45 minutes away and the type of job he has he absolutely can not leave before his shift is over...which is why grandma normally stays with the child - she has authority to authorize medical treatments, etc.

However, I are right, I should have let him know what was going on. In hindsight I wish I had recorded the behavior and sent it to him.

Poodle's picture

He should be able to understand your straightforward description. You don't need to record this for a parent to know it was out of control.

sheila_in_woods's picture

I know. Sad

I want to...I think.

It makes me sad to think this little boy will feel that I abandoned him because he "isn't perfect"...he has already been abandoned by his biological mother and spends a great deal of time in counseling dealing with that...he hasn't seen her in two years - but he remembers her and talks about her and sometimes cries because he misses her.

I am so torn between my COMMITMENT to him and his dad...and MY life that I worked so hard to achieve...

Thank you all for being here.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Hi...believe me, I wanted to paddle his ass!

BTW, he isn't my DH - we aren't married...I will NEVER get married again - it's completely off the table!!

The child doesn't have these big meltdowns when his dad is around - that's the thing...

but when he has a minor one, his dad puts him in time out - and it works.

I tried putting him in time out and he spun around and slugged me right in the middle part of my glasses.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Thanks...that is a great tip. There is actually an organization in my area for parents of kids with this type of disability - I am thinking of contacting them.

Thing is...I'm just not sure I want this life for myself anymore.

A week ago I would have told you that I'm completely committed to SO, his child and our family. Now...I just don't know.

Probably best to let y'all know...I am 14 years older than SO...I am 50 and he is 36. I have raised two biological children to adulthood and was married for 26 years and also parented two step sons - and that was it's own nightmarish animal.

Poodle's picture

I would go with your judgment. Given the way your SO has not taken full responsibility for this situation then if you get in touch with those groups you, as a woman, are going to end up being the primary carer. I can say it is worth it as a BM of such a kid but being honest and with my hand on my heart it is a huge amount of work, more work than I have ever done before in my life and it is full time. I couldn't do this for a Skid, I really couldn't, especially if as is clear the biodad has not brought the kid up with all the supports he needs and then, predictably, will abdicate further responsibility the more you take over his job.
So i'd agree the balance sheet is looking against sticking around and hoping things will improve...

sheila_in_woods's picture

Thank you for your reply, Poodle, I appreciate it - especially as you are raising a child of your own who has some similar issues.

I do have to disagree with you on one point...the child's dad has done a great deal in terms of getting the child help. He goes to counseling, group therapy and regular doctor's appointments to make sure he is on the right combination of medications in the right amounts. He keeps the child on a very regular schedule and does all he can to make sure home is a place that supports the child's needs. Dad also sees a counselor to help him deal with the stress of raising a child like this as a single parent.

That being said...he does have to work and he does need back up care when he is working. The reason he works nights is so he can get the child to all those appointments, attend parent-teacher conferences, be available if the school calls about a behavior that has gotten the child suspended, etc.

He has his mom and two other part time caregivers who spend the night in the child's home so as not to disrupt his routines and schedule...I was just filling in, which I have done before, without incident.

I'm with you though...I've removed the rose colored glasses and tossed them out the window.

Poodle's picture

That is so reassuring to hear. But given that you were only standing in as very much a part-time carer, then it is not such a drastic situation for your relationship. I would say that this scene was the signal for the both of you that your partner's childcare regime can't take occasional helpers and the kid needs his routine carers full time without putting pressure on your relationship with him. If your DH can keep up that routine and not fall back on you for help, then your relationship need not be under stress. The skid can be told that you are a friend of dad rather than a carer for him. If that is carefully spelled out and repeated then he can get used to the new distance. The issue then becomes what will happen if the Skid continues to have violent meltdowns which could occur, for example, when he is a large young man and you and DH are alone with him. Seems to me this is unlikely if the meltdowns are few and far between now and there is proper management of them by DH and his team and the child is helped to understand himself and control himself better. Take a look at the movie Rainman -- the toaster or the airplane meltdown do not result in violence to others but it's likely that those (very well acted btw) meltdowns would have produced hitting and kicking as well as shrieking when the Dustin Hoffman character was a child. BTW the Dustin Hoffman character is not high functioning particularly and probably therefore is a more problematic adult than your SS will be, so don't panic about that aspect of Dustin H's brilliant performance!
I don't feel so negative about the chances of the relationship working out beneficially for you now but I would add that your relationship with your partner is going to have to be specifically modified and tailored in ways that might be irritating given you are not wanting your lifestyle to be driven by the kids needs as he matures.
I have seen a number of young boys be quite violent at this age but as they mature to become perfectly able to self-control and remain non-violent so I do not see this as hopeless at all personally. I was more bothered by your having been put in an unpleasant position without support at this time.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Thank you again for taking time to reply. I am finding it helpful to just be able to talk things out here. Since you mentioned shreeking...OMG...the screams that come out of that child when he is "upset" could shatter glass!

You are correct - some modifications will need to be made if we are to continue in the relationship (which I still, as of this moment don't feel like I want). For example, say we live together and dad wants to continue to work nights...fine. But...

there will be a CARE GIVER in the house for him -- I will NOT be it. So my compromise would be - I will have to be willing to share my home overnight with the care giver - no problem! She sleeps outside his bedroom, she gets up with him at 4 a.m., gives the meds, takes him to school, etc. NOT. ME.

Poodle's picture

Sounds like a plan. I'd put this to your BF and see what he has to say. He may not be happy not to have a blended family but he'd be getting a brilliant deal in my view and also someone not resentful of his kid. It's a win win so long as he has the resources $ wise.

Rags's picture

With all of the factors considered and the new information. Skid ass ... meet paddle.

Light his ass up when he pulls this crap. His ass will wear out long before your arm does.

IMHO of course.

As for taking on this burden at 50 with a 5yo.... I wouldn't. The age difference between my bride of 20 years and I is close to the age difference between you and your SO. I am 50, she turns 39 today. Fortunately the Skid is 22 and doing well on his own. His birthday was 2 weeks ago. Not that his birthday matters. We married the week before he turned 2 so we have had a long time to partner on raising the Skid to viable adulthood.

At 50 I am not sure I would have the energy to take on even a reasonably well behaved 5yo skid. Most definately I would not have the patience.

Good luck.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Thank you for your input. I feel so drained right now by the whole thing and am really leaning toward breaking it off...but it's going to be difficult. I'll get the whole "I thought you were committed to us" thing. Yeah...I thought I was too - but I won't stay with ANYONE who uses physical violence against me - I don't care if they're 5 or 55.

I just got text - what time do I want to go school shopping with them? Sorry...they're on their own.

Delilah's picture

So tell us what was your partners reaction at what happened? Never ever put someone else in front of yourself to the detriment of your health and sanity...

sheila_in_woods's picture

I haven't actually SEEN him since this happened. He telephoned me to ask if I was alright and he apologized and said the child would have consequences...which was writing sentences..."I will not hurt (my name)." That is the consequence the ch wild HATES more than anything in this world -- and therefore what his counselor says should be his discipline when he doesn't make good choices.

I suggested also that the child be grounded from riding his bike and scooter - two things he has a huge obsession with. I have read about autistic children being absolutely fixated by one thing...with this kid it is his bike and scooter...he will rid round and round in the garage for HOURS on end if you don't make him stop. FIRST thing out of his mouth EVERY morning of his life..."I want to ride my bike." I don't know if SO did ground him from those things or not - I didn't ask.

So far I have bailed on a school shopping trip (today) and a trip to an amusement park (tomorrow). I'm just not feeling it. SO is "quiet but polite" on the phone this morning...he knows where this is heading.

Poodle's picture

Both your SO and the counselor are off the wall. You don;t give an ASD child consequences hours later, as they will not relate it to the behavior. Period. You also don't give them lines as that activity is not contextually related to the behavior. I would advise it is hopeless if even the counselor does not know how to deal with this condition.
Any parent of an ASD child will tell you that the response has to be immediate and micromanaged. Rags is wrong that it has to be punitive. It has to be behavioral (an immediate NO type action/words or removal of stimulus) and then you have to very clearly set out the rules of good behavior verbally -- then get compliance no matter what it takes so that you set up a trigger to a good behavior for the future. As I said it is incredibly hard work -- google "applied behavior analysis" for the type of micromanagement that is effective -- it has to be applied across the waking day both at the educational setting and at home and every adult with care has to follow the program. This is not for the faint-hearted.
Now I know the counselor is this ignorant I say even more, they are not giving you the equipment to work with this boy and once you had looked it up for yourself you would be solely responsible for him. Not worth it. You have to get away whilst it is still amicable in my view.

sheila_in_woods's picture

What they do at school and what his dad does at home is remove him from the situation and help him calm down. I had no way to remove him from the situation...apparently I WAS the situation. I tried putting him in time out as I've seen his dad do and he slugged me in the face and ran away from me. That's the other thing...their house has FOUR EXITS and the kid kept threatening to run off - heading first to one door then another, then another...

Would an ASD child remember doing the negative behavior hours and days later? Because this kid does...he can tell you exactly what he did, step by step and he can say the words to tell you it was wrong...but I question whether the little guy really cares that it was wrong.

Sometimes things set him having to wait his turn at school ... but I honestly don't know what set him off the other day. :?

sheila_in_woods's picture

Thanks for the info - very interesting. I don't necessarily believe the child should be punished - but I do believe in consequences - loss of control or not. If he beats somebody up on the street when he is 18, he isn't going to get off with "Sorry, I'm autistic and I lost control."

So, in your opinion, are there any differences between an autistic meltdown and a good old fashioned temper tantrum and, if so, what are they?

sheila_in_woods's picture

Thank you. I'm not sure where this child is "on the spectrum" - in fact, I spent a good deal of time with him before I even knew he was autistic (his dad is a friend of friends of mine - we were at some of the same functions, etc. before we began dating) and was surprised to find out because I had these preconceived ideas of what an autistic child would be like and he didn't "fit" my misguided preconceptions.

He has no ticks that you would notice as being out of the ordinary - none of the hand flapping or other ticks. He does have some trouble starting a sentence but I wouldn't attribute that by itself to autism. Some noises bother if another child starts to sing or hum, he will scream at them to stop...but as a person who is easily overwhelmed by certain sounds myself (like the sound of air conditioning or a fan make me so crazy I don't have them) I wouldn't have attributed that to autism either.

I feel so bad for the little guy. When he is sweet, he is the sweetest. He wants his mother and she is never coming back. On top of that he has to be the child nobody wants to play with, sit by, etc. because other kids have seen what he is capable of and don't want to be his next punching bag.

Would it be fair to say that a temper tantrum could be the result of saying no to a request for a toy at the store and a meltdown could appear to happen out of the blue...for no reason that I'm able to see? I'm generalizing here...please forgive my ignorance and all my questions...but you have been more than helpful!

sheila_in_woods's picture

Wow...I am so glad you are "here"!!! You get it!!!

"My" little guy's noise is a "fake whistle" -- he can't actually whistle yet but he makes the whistling posture with his mouth and a high pitched sound that will make your hair stand on end.

Another thing he does is rewind a movie or t.v. show back to the beginning and watch the first few minutes of it over and over and over...until you tell him no more.

He does work with his counselor on making other choices besides hitting and his teachers work with him and try to "catch him" walking away instead of hitting and praising him for it, etc.

I was extremely proud of him one day...I had taken him to a local indoor playground and another child ACCIDENTALLY kicked him in the side of the face. Normally this sort of thing would result in a disaster with the adult in charge dragging him from the scene.

He cried so hard - it had to hurt like holy hell...but he really held it together - I was so proud of him and let him know it. Then...the parents of the other child brought their son over to apologize and I was thinking "OH LORD..." but again, my little guy was very gracious and held it together.

sheila_in_woods's picture

That's the stance his dad takes - that the child is the one who is different and the world won't accommodate him - he has to control certain behaviors in certain situations. We prepare him as best as we can before events, changes, etc. - and for the most part he does well.

We are also not above a bribe...sometimes, as you know, it's whatever gets you through the day or the week or whatever.

BethAnne's picture

Wow, what a shitty situation you're in. Personally I have no knowledge of autistic kids but what I would say is that you should carefully observe how your partner handles the situation and how he helps you and his son to ensure that both of you have the correct tools to deal with the situation again. He should also be understanding if you wish to take a step back from babysitting and other activities you are doing solo with the kid until you feel more comfortable handling him on your own (if at all). If you have any special requests to learn more or to talk to his therapists he should be understanding and accommodating. Poodle has some great advice and information. If you intend to stay with this man then you and he need to also become experts on his son's condition so that you can both cope with him and help him cope in the world. Your partner needs to be proactive in that and needs to be inclusive of you in that process.

If you feel that he isn't doing these things for you and his son then you do need to reevaluate your relationship. If he puts the blame on you without helping you find the correct tools to cope with his son, you need to reevaluate. If he doesn't listen to you when you have suggestions of things that may help his son and rather than discussing the options like a reasonable adult becomes defensive of his parenting skills, you need to reevaluate.

As others have said. If this behavior isn't addressed and continues as he grows, not only will you hate the child but he will one day do some serious damage to you.

sheila_in_woods's picture

That is what I'm afraid of...that he will do major damage to me or my home or one of my pets - or to another child or his grandmother or...???

I am so ignorant of his condition...I admit it. While I'm not questioning his diagnosis, I am so ignorant of it that (I'm ashamed to admit)...I don't see a child with autism...I see an angry little brat.

All the more reason for me to bail out.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Yep. Because I responded like I would with any child throwing a temper tantrum - attempted to put him in time out, tried to make him pick up all the books he threw, etc. Obviously not going to work if it's an autistic meltdown.

Poodle's picture

As you are unfamiliar with his behavior triggers and the management, it's safer not to attempt to distinguish between tantrums and meltdowns and just assume you have a meltdown on your hands. In a meltdown, the person loses control because of the strength of their anxiety/rage/etc and often they have sensory issues that make the experience unbearable with their perceptions of sound particularly becoming actually distressing to them. I have noted a number of ASD children cannot bear the sound of a stern voice at such times and it is counter-intuitive to carers but you do have to speak very quietly during meltdowns rather than be heard to exert authority. The adult authority has definitely to be used verbally, but very skilfully. In a meltdown or not, ASD is a communication disorder and you always need to bear in mind that they do not understand communications as you do, unless they are following a clearly rehearsed pattern of interactive steps. Which is why instinctive and intuitive responses of the adult to adapt discipline to the situation may not be understood by the ASD child. So that for example, where it is intuitively obvious to a neurotypical child that putting books back in place is a form of atonement or reparation, to the ASD child this idea may -- particularly in a meltdown -- seem completely inexplicable and a meaningless act of oppression by the adult. If he gets in a meltdown with you again I would forget trying to make him behave "properly" but concentrate only on calming him by using techniques suggested by your BF and counselor. As Dtzy says some of them hugely benefit from self-calming in a room on their own, so one option is to simply walk out so long as he is safe and remove the trigger that way. Other options are a soothing song or toy, or as you have, a very strict routine. The trigger for most meltdowns is a transition from one activity to another, particularly a transition required by the carer which the ASD person does not want to do. So yes it's a clash of wills but you have the added ingredient with ASD that the ASD person if being asked to do something new or unexpected will instantly become incredibly anxious because they just really do not know what is going to happen next because their brain can't sequence and predict ordinary events like yours can. Clearly the anxiety can give rise to anger which is what then leads you to believe that you have a simple tantrum protest on your hands. But actually you had a potent mix of anger, anxiety and distress in this kid and the situation snowballed beyond where he normally would get to with an adult, which increased his fear. Boys very much convert fear into anger, this is normal. As I keep saying, none of this is your fault but if you are going to remain in the situation you really have to give up the idea that he just needs a good smack and will then snap out of it. If you take that approach it will likely lead to a lot of misunderstandings.

OrangeUGlad's picture

Just want to add a couple of thoughts.

I have extensive personal & professional experience with kids with autism.

The idea that some behaviors are due to autism and some not is not accurate because you can't turn autism on/off. It is all encompassing. Everything they see, do, think, say, etc. is affected by their disorder. The process things differently.

There is ALWAYS a trigger- it is just often not something obvious. It is usually not the kinds of things that would set off a typical kid.

The behavior of a child with autism is rarely "personal". ie it is unlikely he was mad at you in the way you seem to be suggesting. In fact, you will likely find the next time you see him he will jump up beside you to read your magazine together like nothing ever happened.

It is VERY common for kids with autism to be able to learn things in a rote way (ie understand the consequences of particular behaviors in a therapeutic session) but not be able to apply that information to real world situations.

Most of the time the people close to a child with autism learn their triggers, learn how to calm them quickly, etc and it becomes so automatic that very subtle things they avoid or do in a particular way- they don't even realize they are doing it. So if he isn't having tantrums with dad, dad is probably very good about responding in subtle ways that avoid them. And dad, grandma, etc, probably couldn't quite explain how to do what they do.

So it is probably not so much that you did anything *wrong* just that the normal right/wrong of dealing with kids just doesn't apply.

So, all that is to say- what you saw is due to the autism. His behavior may improve over time or may get worse over time, regardless of the type and amount of therapy and intervention he gets.

Does this mean the relationship must be doomed?! No. I would say for starters, let your bf know that you are not able or willing to babysit. If you move in together, your bf has to be completely in charge of his child. YOU will have to be comfortable integrating yourself into their routine.

In a typical stepfamily, everyone has to make some adjustments. But this is an unrealistic expectation for a child with autism, so it will be all about YOU adjusting yourself to him in ways that may be inconvenient or uncomfortable.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Thank you for the information. It's a lot to think about.

Poodle's picture

Great link HE.
I get the impression you are very conflicted Sheila. At first I had the impression of someone not wanting to be blended but then you have put in later posts expressing all the pride you have experienced and all the hard work you have put into this kid.
Whilst I don't agree that most marriages producing a disabled child break up, I do agree it is very hard work parenting them and a lot of partnership has to go into parenting, often romance is the loser. But then so it is with co-parenting many children. But with ASD in particular, it's actually easier than not to build a non-blended partner relationship to a parent of a disabled child because, once you've explained verbally the boundaries and the "rules" of disengagement to the child, and that child has processed that information, you actually will have a lot fewer boundary issues than in a neurotypical setting. So, in my view, distance from the child whilst maintaining the adult relationship could actually hit all the spots for the couple -- so long as the dad has the financial resources to support this lifestyle and the dad also has the maturity to not pass the buck onto the female partner.
As Tommar says, once "difference" is accepted it all gets a whole heap easier. The kid knows they are seen as a freak from very early, perhaps from about 6 or 7 years old they know they are shunned by others, and there is a big autistic community out there now that makes it finally ok to lay that out to the child, who usually experiences such discussions as a big relief. There's a good book for teens by Luke Jackson called Freaks, Geeks and AS that's along this theme, and there's also the website Wrong Planet where adults get a lot of support. But taking this difference theme back to your adult relationship, it would be a precondition to a successful relationship that you accept that your setup with this dad is going to be unusual, be tailored, be based around his need to parent this child, and that as the child grows up when you go out together as a group you are ALL going to be seen as oddballs... can you accept all this? If you can it can work, and I sense that you are quite unconventional already, what with your refreshing honesty about your approach to marriage itself. But if you can't then don't beat yourself up about it, it's not a failed relationship, simply a set of requirements of your partner that are really too much of a tall order for most of the female population.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Indeed I am very conflicted. I would have told you I was completely and totally "in it to win it" prior to this incident. Now...I picture myself going through my house and hiding all the sharp or valuable objects before I go to bed every night, having locks installed that the kid can't open, etc.

I came from a marriage that consisted of a blended family. Former DH was a severe sufferer of "guilty daddy syndrome" and still is from what I hear...and those boys are 40 and 42 years old. Our marriage was put on ice for him to tend to their every whim - even to the point of buying the younger one a HOUSE with OUR money - in spite of my objections.

"New Man" - he never excludes me or makes me feel second to his kids. Mind you their well being comes FIRST as it both of us...but not their every whim. He makes plenty of time for "just us" and we plan "family movie nights" and other things with the kids...NOTE...that I've not mentioned before...there is actually a SECOND five-year-old boy...who he has 50/50 custody of...has him every other week.

He treats me with a lot of respect and insists that the children do likewise. They aren't permitted to interrupt us when we're talking unless it's a "big deal" and the world doesn't revolve around them. He takes excellent care of them but not to the exclusion of our relationship. So...a "breath of fresh air"...until...THE. INCIDENT.

Maybe I should brush it off as just an isolated incident but my instincts say will happen again and it could be worse.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Thank you for your post. 33 don't feel so horribly guilty now that this one went on for 4 hours!

What kind of "food issues" does your daughter have? Our little guy's food issues don't strike me as that unusual...he LOVES oatmeal and would eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and he won't eat cheese in any form - he even takes it off his pizza...and that's about it...except that he begs for garbage food like candy, etc. - but I think that might be typical of most children, having raised two of my own "little beggars."

Poodle's picture

Your man sounds like a real treasure.
The boys also sound generally well-behaved and very well brought up.
If this incident seemed out of character for your SS then likely that is exactly what it was.
Maybe sit down with your partner, go through the whole incident in huge detail and see if he can spot where the trigger was -- there will have been one. From what you've written thus far I'm getting the picture it was the disciplining that made it flip worse but it may just have been seeing the "wrong" face on waking up. Whatever, the initial trigger escaping you has spooked you. Maybe once you can work out what it was you will feel less worried. The guilt you feel is also completely unjustified as you were put in a difficult spot by having sole care and not getting the trigger -- which could have happened to anyone even a bioparent or someone expert in that condition. That caused you to over-doubt your abilities with managing this child which are clearly very high indeed.
My aspie son aged nearly 5 threw a heavy phone handset at me in a rage when I had a newborn in my arms -- he was finding the whole new brother thing very stressful and was out of control for a period. He came round the corner of my bedroom door with it and threw it right at me but it hit the baby's head by mistake. You can imagine how I felt. But such a thing has never ever happened again, and I'm confident now he's 16 that none of his family members are in any more danger than had he been a completely neurotypical kid. So if you want to leave, don't do it just for this incident but get a clearer picture of where the kid is on the spectrum and what the support services are. This kid does not sound likely to be dangerous to me but a reason for breaking up the relationship would be more that, as the other parents of ASD kids have frequently said on this thread, it's immensely hard work micromanaging these kids around the clock. The rewards are great but that's speaking as a bioparent. The stress is also great.
I still think your man sounds like a real darling though so it's a tough one.

sheila_in_woods's picture

I'll tell ya what's a treasure - you and the others responding to this thread and being willing to share your experiences and knowledge with me...WOW!!

I just spoke with SO on the phone. He took the kids to an amusement park today - I was supposed to take the day off and go - but I'm "taking a little respite" as I work through it his mom went. He was a little upset about that at first but he got it and got okay with it.

I told him we have a lot to talk about but I need a few more days. Right or wrong...I'm taking the time I need.

Poodle's picture

Respite is an important issue with ASD. I've not taken much of it myself as where I am you would have to pay dearly for it but it is acknowledged to be an essential part of any educational or parental support package. So the people dealing with your skid will be very clear on this with your partner although it sounds as if he's not pressuring you anyway. TBH it sounds like he needs it too given he is doing nights in order to support this boy.
Good on you, you are absolutely right to get away and weigh up the pros and cons well away from the lot of them. If the SS notices you did not go to the park and asks after you (which may not happen depending on his ASD), then that's the ideal opportunity for his dad to explain the effect of his behavior to him. But again, I'm worried that his mom needed to step in and go. did his dad really need 1:1 adult present for each kid? If he did, would it not have been better to have involved one of the carers? She does not sound the best of influences and if you decide to keep on with this, that sort of intervention may prove an irritant.

sheila_in_woods's picture

"Mom" is not allowed to see the child until she does certain things - a whole list of things demanded by the court - drug counseling, parenting classes, just to name a couple. She is currently doing two years in the slammer for selling drugs while pregnant with baby #5.

Prior to her arrest and conviction she did NONE of the things required of her in order to be allowed supervised visitation but she did constantly badger SO over the phone to let her see the child. He kept telling her that even if he WANTED to...and he did NOT...he couldn't - court order.

I am concerned about when she gets out and comes looking for him...OY!

Poodle's picture

oh of course, it was your partner's mom who went... sorry, lost the plot.
Your partner has taken a great line with the BM over the arrangements. Totally official. Excellent.

sheila_in_woods's picture

I'm so sorry for the confusion!! Yes, it was my partner's mom who went. I feel was supposed to be this "big family bonding day" - but I wasn't feelin it and I won't fake it. I had a very productive and peaceful day at work.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Well...the jury is still out on that one and he wasn't mine to slap. If this incident was indeed a meltdown due to his autism - no. If it wasn't - no...again, not my child, not even my step child, I'm not hitting him. He's 5, I'm 50. If he was 20 and hit me first...maybe...but I could give you a hundred "ifs". Ain't life grand? NOT.

(edited for spelling error)

sheila_in_woods's picture

I see your point. But he isn't crazy. He has a medically diagnosed disability that causes him to be out of control like that. As unpleasant as it is for those who teach and care for him, it has to be much worse for him.

No, not an "excuse" for him to behave like that and he needs to continue with his counseling and therapy to try to learn how to NOT do those things and he needs to continue to be told that those behaviors are not normal and not acceptable.

Hitting him back just isn't an option. That would be like if I had a stomach virus and someone slugged me every time I vomited.

Poodle's picture

This kind of boy in this kind of state does not feel physical pain. Therefore in order to quell his behavior Sheila would have had to beat him up - literally. Is this what you are advocating? Sounds like a recipe for CPS intervention to me.

sheila_in_woods's picture

That would explain why he was kicking the refrigerator very hard with his bare foot and it didn't seem to phase him. Wow...

I would never strike this child under any circumstances, let alone beat the daylights out of him.

sheila_in_woods's picture

Of course not. As for what I WOULD do, this is what I DID do:
Each time he would hit or bite me or whatever I would stop him - hold his arms at his sides, get up and move away from him - whatever I could think of. That would temporarily discourage him and he would go about destroying something for awhile before he resumed trying to hurt me again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Poodle's picture

Yes kids on the spectrum often have perception issues e.g. oversensitivity or under sensitivity to touch stimulus, sound etc. For example my son did not even feel jabs as a baby when treated with needles. Some with generally rough behavior can be sensory-seeking i.e. they slam things down hard or barge because they are seeking touch. Others may not feel pain as said, but also, it's fair to say that anyone who's in a state where they've become "beside themselves" feels less pain anyway -- it's an adrenaline effect. With the ASD person the thing is it's harder for them to stop being beside themselves as they can get lost in the state.