I am publishing this twitter thread from September 10th, with permission from Ian, who tweets as @DiaryAutism.
I think it adds something to the recent musings about the intent issue, and about the different issues for families where there is an autism diagnosis (here and here for instance); and leaves absolutely no room for any doubt about how it feels, for this person, to be a parent in that situation.
The most powerful emotion I have ever felt is the love for and desire to protect my children
It’s not that I’d take a bullet for them. It’s that I’d run through a brick wall to take a bullet for them
Parental love is all consuming and utterly life changing. Nothing else comes close
So when that love is repaid with violence it causes a great deal of cognitive dissonance. Just what the F is happening?
Of course it’s love you want to respond with, your child is not lashing out, they’re in distress. They need a hug from Dad
Which is exactly the opposite of what they want. In that moment, for whatever reason, you are not Dad. You are a target
E normally leads with the head. Not normally a butt, but something to push you away
But you can’t get away because he’s advancing on you and is normally digging his finger tips into your forearms
I say fingertips rather than nails because we’ve learnt the hard way to keep those bad boys short
By this point your soothing voice and pleas to calm down are drowned out by his screams. Screams that bare his teeth. Now it gets scary
Both your hands are busy trying to control his scratches, and he tries to bite you. How do you stop it?
A lot of the time you don’t and you let him sink his teeth into a part of your arm that has long since calloused up
Why? Because it gives you a momentary chance to get hold of something that might distract him. A toy, some food – anything.
By this point adrenaline is flooding your body and Fight or Flight has well and truly kicked in.
What to do? Flight? No chance! That’s my boy; he’s upset! I’ve got to stay and help
Fight? It’d be a lie to say that fighting back isn’t an enormously strong desire, especially if my wife or other children are at risk
But that parental lock kicks in – I’m not going to hurt him, therefore the only choice is to let him hurt me
And then – it’s over. Whatever caused the outburst has disappeared as quickly and as mysteriously as it took over
E will return to normal within a few moments and more often than not will be smiling before you’ve stopped bleeding
The welts, cuts & bruises are the least of your worries now though as that adrenaline you didn’t use to Fight or Flight floods your emotions
The worst part isn’t when it’s happening, it’s the powerlessness you feel afterwards. In feeling that love thrown back so brutally
We’ve had a bad weekend. 2 violent incidents, the first of which resulted in a short trip to hospital for me
But it’s a bad weekend on the back of a pretty good summer. I honestly can’t recall the last time this happened & that is such a good thing
It just goes to show; we’ll never not love him, he’ll never be able to control it always & we’ll never be truly out of the woods /end
Reading other threads, and other commentary, I am very aware that other families may not share the strength of conviction that Ian articulates. It is important that we do not build unhelpful levels of expectation, nor that we rush to heap further shame and pain on those who may experience things differently.