Ever wondered what it’s like to be the parent of an Autistic child? Yes, read on….

Ben stopped, did a standing bunny hop, screamed, and hit himself with the full force of both hands twice on the sides of his head. He bent forward at the waist, flung himself back up straight, screeched, smashed himself in the face with his left hand, and sobbed loudly. All in the first five seconds. This was why I’d been worried. We’d gone too far. I felt like the old man, like the sidewalk was my sea and Ben my marlin.

I grabbed his wrists and said, “OK, Ben, come on. We have to walk to the car. No hitting.”
He screamed, shifted into deadweight, and crumpled to the ground. Then he was on all fours on the sidewalk, slapping himself in the face. “Come on, Ben, we have to walk. Let’s get to the car and have a bottle.” Yes, he’s eight, taller than his grandmother, heavier than his mother, and yes, he still drinks diluted apple juice out of a baby bottle. Is it our fault? Maybe. Some kids bite their nails, some adolescents smoke, and Ben still has a bottle. He loves it, it soothes him. It’s also handy for getting medication into him, since he’s extremely defensive when it comes to ingesting all but a few foods and drinks. I was hoping a bottle would be a carrot. Not today.

I bent down and lifted him to his feet from behind, my arms under his. He stood, screamed, jumped, and flailed, knocking my glasses askew and getting my nose hard enough to bring water to my eyes.
“Dammit, Ben,” I blurted out. Shifting into the numb, task-oriented mode of focusing only on essentials, I stood next to but slightly behind him, a position that allowed me to walk, hold him up, push him along, and keep hold of his wrists all at once. I was sweating, my back was aching, and my ears were ringing–his voice is loud. I didn’t know if I could keep this up for another third of a mile. I did know that I didn’t have much choice. After another dozen steps Ben tried to jump up and down before reverting to deadweight. Holding his arms up, he slid to the ground, where he lay flat on his belly, bouncing his face on the asphalt and screaming. We were blocking a driveway that led into several lakefront estates, and I imagined a Lexus flying up it and squashing us both. I only then noticed the spectacle we’d become for passing cars.

The parent in the piece is Dr David Royko, Psychologist and son of the late, Mike Royko, Pulitzer prize winning Journalist.

Hat-tip: Dr. X’s Free Associations


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