I had noticed my son, Chris(age 4), was growing more aggressive as the days passed. Cool down times had increased by an hour. Aggression was seemingly consistent. For the first time since my son's birth, I was worried Autism was taking hold of my son, and was never going to let go. It's an odd feeling. One that can only be described as watching the Exorcist. Here, is your child. A beautiful soul one day, and in an instant- they are unrecognizable. You cannot convince, coddle, or take the pain away. You stand there, perplexed, feeling as if the floor was just knocked out from underneath. There is a sadness that surrounds the situation - meanwhile anger is just a few screams away. Anger that your child has to endure this pain inside the brain. Sometimes, even anger directed towards the child-not understanding it's the fear of the unknown. It's also the feeling that you, the parent, is a failure. I remember this feeling as if it were yesterday, not six years ago. I remember because it was the first time I decided to make "that call". The call to the hospital.
My oldest daughter -age 14 at the time, was visiting family in another state. Chris, was used to her being around. I had noticed the regression and other behavior aspects, but I figured with my determination and hard work, we would pull through this just fine. I awoke like any other day, not knowing the whirlwind that would befall my family before dinner. Alex being gone was a change in Chris's environment. I knew it was going to be hard on him, but never did I realize to what extent. Until the explosion happened. Within the two hour "cool down" time, my son managed to defecate on the floor, break a window, and almost tear a door from it's hinges. Yes, this is a four-year old I'm talking about. What did I do to prevent those things from happening? At that time, I would've said everything. Looking back on it now, I did nothing.
As my son began defecating while I was holding him, I allowed him to finish. Why? Imagine a child screaming and trying to flail around- placing them on the toilet, mid poop. There is no way, any of that was going to be a pretty scene. So, I took the lesser of two evils, and allowed him to finish. Now, came the clean up time. At least it was contained within the four walls of his room. That was the one and only blessing I was receiving that day. After cleaning him, I then began to clean up the area with bleach and water. Doing so, meant I had to let go of him. Within that couple minute clean up, he was trying to open the door. Since I was inside the room with him, I wasn't worried, until I heard the crack sound. Quickly, I ran to ensure the door wasn't going to come down on him. Holding the door with both hands, pleading with Chris to calm down, he picked up the bottle and threw it against the side window. Another cracking sound. It wasn't until he leaped up onto his bed, and headed to the now cracked window- I dropped the door and grabbed him.
A few hours later, I was making the call that I would soon regret. I could tell you how poorly the hospital handled my child. How a security guard almost broke my son's arm. How the "trained staff" made my son feel even more uncomfortable than he already did, ensuring a higher level of aggression. I mean, who takes a child into a room, strips them down with a stranger and puts scrubs on him that are meant for a teen. I could also tell you how they injected his leg with Benadryl to sedate him. Or how I had to sleep on the floor with my infant daughter (breastfed) because when I left, the hospital could not calm him down. Or how the psychiatrist came to talk with me at 4 a.m. and within three days, did nothing for my child.
The moment I watched my son, face down in a bed, hand behind his back- as if he was a criminal, was the first time I'd exploded being a parent of a special need child. My yelling was fierce, direct, and in truth- felt good to get out. In a weird way, I knew at that moment how Chris felt. I watched, waited, and listened to everyone else-for absolutely nothing. All this to have my son tormented and hurt to the point where I could see him in true physical pain. It was as if four years of holding things in, came out within a few minutes. I had finally gotten the hospital's attention. Unfortunately, it had to come down to me almost kicking a guards ass, before the entire floor understood, "I meant business." I also, think it was at that moment, Chris realized there are no boundaries for me, in protecting him. Needless to say, I received the release papers for him and had a different guard bringing my things to my car. They are truly lucky I'm not the suing type.
Once home, Chris seemed to appreciate being there -even with his sister not being there. I believe he had to go through this ordeal to understand. Kind of like - he chose the lesser of the two evils; being at home without his older sister or being at a hospital where he knew no one. A place where security took on a whole other meaning.
Although hospitals are trying to formulate areas designed with ASD children in mind, not many have. They are not equipped to handle specific situations and will decline services for many reasons. This is not against the law. Ironically, a law can also be the reason your child doesn't get to leave-once admitted. I got lucky. How? If the security guard hadn't almost broke his arm, he was looking at being transferred to a mental hospital 3 hours from where I'm from. Based on his reaction to this hospital, he would only regress further - and my son would've been kept in isolation. As they say, "for his best interests". What they really mean is: Your child is showing signs of a serious mental health crisis and is a danger to himself and others. We are going to lock him up until he isn't. In my son's case, he probably would still be there today. Chris was a danger at that moment, but the hospital's actions and lack there of, worsened his behavior.
It's reported, that over 11% of children with ASD have been placed in some form of a psychiatric hospital before age 18. Also, as the age increases, so does the possibility they will enter one. Although there are many reasons why, I have listed the top five based on a study that was concluded.
1. Aggressive behaviors
2.Coming from a single parent home
4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
5. Self Harming behaviors
If you are wanting more -detailed information, feel free to read what I have. I'm posting one of the more reputable and thought provoking PDF. It's a long read, but will give more insight into understanding the complexities of the system. http://mmcri.org/ns/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Siegel-Gabriels-Inpatient-DD-Hospital-Treatment.pdf
As a parent who has seen the "worst" my child can be, I know the sinking feeling in the stomach. I know those questions that bang around in the brain. I've also lived it first hand. I cannot say to everyone what they should do, but I know in my personal opinion; I will never make that phone call again. In a weird way, I'm glad it happened. That was the jump start Chris needed to understand what he would face without me by his side. On the flip side, it has never been forgotten by him or I. It's also something I would never wish for anyone to endure. I suppose if you have exhausted all other possibilities, then by all means, make the call. If you haven't, then don't even think about picking up that phone.
Andrei Lankov once said, " To not have your suffering recognized is an almost unbearable form of violence." When I ponder this statement- in relation to my son that day, this is the reason I say, "I did nothing". I knew that a change in his environment would bring out the worst in him. Unfortunately, I didn't know until that day, what his "worst" truly was. He tried showing me without getting that violent. I, just didn't want to admit that ONE CHANGE could affect him to such great lengths. To the point where I felt the remake of the Exorcist, was within my domain.
I should've addressed the issues with Chris. I should've been more prepared to handle his meltdown. I should never think for one second, we can get over this- because he might not be able to. The last time I saw the same behavior creeping up, he was going back to school. It was because of our past together, I was able to notice the signs and take all necessary actions to ensure my son didn't bring the Exorcist back again. Don't mistake what I'm saying. We had issues. It was a rough two weeks. Good news...there was no broken windows, doors, and together we worked through his suffering.