“I want to live my life. I’m exhausted now.
He’s a good looking 21 year old man who loves to go out and play. My helper takes care of him.”
“He pulled my 15 year old daughter’s hair so badly that some of it came off in clumps. She was traumatized.”
“He also bit my thumb so badly that I had to be rushed to hospital to get sutures.
I used to beat him to discipline him in the past.”
“Now, I’m tired.”
“Please suggest some good residential center for people with autism.”
“We don’t know what to do with him anymore. He constantly asks us to say things in a certain way. He displays ritualistic behavior.
He used to go to school. But there also he got stuck with his behaviors.
The school tried their best to accommodate him. Finally they gave up.
Now we’re sick and tired of his ritualistic behavior.
We have to answer him- otherwise he gets stuck and doesn’t do anything the entire day.”
“Besides, we’re not getting younger. We’re both drained.”
“We are considering some residential facilities.”
“Our neighbours have started complaining. He banged the wall so hard- over a period of weeks, that he made a hole through it. Yes, he injured his hand but wouldn’t stop. He’s fixated with plans. Anything can start an aggressive bout.
I know he’s intelligent but we can’t break through.
Sometimes he throws furniture around. We have to get help to protect ourselves.”
“Let him just live his life and let us live our life.”
“Can you suggest a good residential center?
These are snippets of real conversations I’ve had with families.
A deep pain descends as I write this article.
I understand the parents’ situation.
I know the trauma. I’ve been through the hair pulling.
I’ve had to have stitches and have a crooked forefinger to show for it.
So I’m not judging parental choices here.
All I’m saying is: Before you make a life changing decision like this try to build a relationship with your child.
It’s taken years to build up to such a painful situation, hasn’t it?
Years of effort from you- where things became worse instead of better.
Years of being judged by people about your parenting abilities.
Years of aggression followed by feelings of being drained and traumatized.
You’ve already been through so much.
Can you give yourself one more year?
One year to understand your child and build a relationship with him.
Trust me, it’s not asking for too much.
A year will just fly by.
In this one year you can:
1. Build a relationship with your child.
All these years, you’ve taught your child skills and language.
That’s not bad at all.
But do you know who he is? Not just the autism or his excesses and deficits. Not just the speech (or lack of it). Not the amount of eye contact he gives you and the skills he has.
But who is he as a person?
I was with a towering 6 footer yesterday. He acted up a little. With his brute strength he could swat me away like a fly.
I looked him straight in the eye and told him I could see through him. He should behave himself, as what he did didn’t bother me.
We spent the next 45 minutes making pasta and listening to his favorite music.
He behaved like a gentle giant. We connected emotionally.
You too can have a meaningful relationship with your child.
You can challenge him. He can grow mentally.
You can cut across the superficiality.
You can have an emotional relationship with your child.
It need not be based on bribing him, but a deeper reciprocal relationship where you both understand each other.
2. Empower your child, so that he becomes a thinker and problem solver
Every human being wants to grow and feel challenged.
When you step away from the tumultuous, superficial exterior- you will find a calmness beneath. Then beautiful things will happen in your life.
You can tap this level by challenging your child and teaching him to solve problems and put him on the spot for thinking.
Expect from your child. Believe in him.
Teach him the way he learns.
For this you’ll have to have the courage to let go of ‘conventional teaching,’ because your child learns differently.
By doing this – not only will you empower your child- but you will be empowered too.
3. Build communication so he can share his experiences with you
Communication- not speech is the key.
Your child may not use words to speak. You’ll have to find alternative ways for him to communicate with you.
Understand how your child learns. Does he learn visually? Can he read? Do words and letters fascinate him? Have you seen him touching items to try to figure out? Does he paint? Does he enjoy music?
All these are clues for you to tap into.
Now use his unique learning style to teach him effectively.
Many of my young men and (women) don’t communicate via speaking, but they show their understanding in other ways such as pictures, typing etc. Tap into alternative avenues.
Sending your child away to a residential is your choice. You are the parent- you know best.
All I’m saying is sending your child away without giving him a fair chance isn’t fair. In a few years, this may be an option for many families, but it should be a well thought out option so it benefits your young adult. Not just because you want to get away from him.
About 10 years ago, I met a family from the US. They said they had been looking for residential centers in the US. Then they chanced upon RDI. (Relationship Development Intervention)
Their life changed after that. Finally, they began to understand their son.
They developed a meaningful relationship.
They no longer felt the need to send their child away at that point.
When I met the young man, I was impressed how well behaved and how knowledgeable he was.
This could be your child.
Invest in building a relationship with your child. Get to know him- as the person he is. And above all, give him communication tools so he can share meaningfully with you.
Then whether he continues to stay with you or whether you decide to use the services of a residential center- your child will blossom.
If you’re from Mumbai, register to attend a meeting to discuss this with me in person. Contact us as firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve you’re spot.
If you’re not from Mumbai- I’ll be happy to skype to share more with you.
Just one message I’d like to leave you with- Do not give up hope. Ever.