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August 29, 2010 / paperkids

Are you mad at me??!

Me:  “Are you mad at me?”

Emma:  No

When Emma first began communicating in May of this year, it seemed to coincide with some particularly aggressive behavior on her part.  I wasn’t going to write about it because I wasn’t sure that Emma wanted me to talk about it.  And these times flow in and out in phases – good weeks and bad, good days and bad.

Let me just say that I want to be honest in this blog.  And, trust me, I am.  I bare my soul on here and I even occasionally cry when writing my entries (although now I have to be more careful since I’m crying over my swanky cordless keyboard).  This has been a wonderful way for me to express myself and at the same time, allow Emma to express herself.   It feels great for both of us.  But I first and foremost want to stay fair and true to her.  I never want to say anything about her that would make her feel bad or exposed or exploited.  I will let her save all those dirty secrets for her book that she writes someday.  I know it’s coming!!  So I won’t ever share anything on here that hasn’t been Emma approved.  I want her to know that she can trust me and know that I respect her as my daughter and the wonderful person that I think she is.   I will always put her feelings first.

We talked  not too long ago about sharing this story about behaviors because I think it’s important.  And so does she.

I couldn’t begin to understand why Emma’s behaviors were getting aggressive – after all, she was extremely happy that she was communicating after all!!!  What could she possibly be upset about?  And for no apparent reason, she was lashing out at me, scratching, trying to bite, and pinching.

Every single time, I’d ask her,

“What’s wrong?!!!  Are you mad at me?!!!”

Emma:  no

Me:  “Then why are you hurting me?”

Emma:  I am sorry

Me: “Can you help it?”

Emma:  I do not have any control over my body

Me:  “Can you re-direct it onto something else?”

Emma:  Of course not  if I knew how I would

Some days are harder for her than others and I sometimes get  really upset and very angry with her.  It’s hard to understand.  One minute we’re sitting there relaxing or “chatting” and the next minute, she’s grabbing my neck.

And every time she’d reach out and spell I am sorry on the letter board… and I would feel really bad for yelling.  I would also feel horrible for her.  She was telling me that she couldn’t help it, but my brain was having such a hard time grasping the concept.

I started to reflect on Carly Fleischmann and how on her website, she has some writings where she rants to her clinical director of  the struggles with her outward behaviors.  And then I thought of Tito again and how in his book he had written  about his struggles with motor planning and his movements.

Recently, we had a hard day.  I think we were all feeling the summer blues.  The behaviors were pretty bad and at some point, I just broke down.  I sat on the couch and cried like a baby.  All this progress we were making and there was all this aggression towards me.   I was trying so hard to understand it.  Emma was sitting there next to me and she started laughing.  My first reaction was to get more upset and just a little angry.

Me:  “Do you think this is funny, Emma?”

I held up the keyboard.

Emma:  no

Me:  “Do you mean to laugh?”

Emma:  no

Me:  “How do you feel inside?”

Emma:  I am crying inside

Seeing the words Emma spells out has forced me to change the way I view many of  those behaviors.  I have had to consciously look at them in a different light – one that I don’t see with my eyes.   I think there are some innocent and understandable misconceptions about those “bad” behaviors that our children sometimes display.

I just want give an  alternate viewpoint – food for thought.  Let’s just give the benefit of the doubt to say, “Okay, maybe this child isn’t being “bad”, maybe they’re just having some impulse control issues and are not able to control their bodies that much today”  That’s not to say that every emotion or behavior is misunderstood, but people with autism have impulse reactions that they truly cannot control.   This, incidentally, is why medication works really well for many adults and children on the spectrum.  We haven’t done this yet for Emma, but I am not opposed to it.  My opinion comes from all the testimonies given by people who live with autism.  I think they deserve the right to be understood in a world that does not know or understand them fully.

Emma:  I am a tired girl

Me:  “Do you think that’s why you’re having so many behaviors?”

Emma:  yes

other related comments regarding moods/behavior by Emma:

I am thinking wrong

I am in a better mood today

I am utterly dead tired

I was on crack  (this one killed me!  When I asked her if she knew what it mean’t she spelled                                  out: ‘reference to drugs’ !)

Yesterday, Emma was grabbing me and trying to bite me.  I had already asked her several times whether she was mad at me or not.  And every time she’d spell out no.  But then she kept doing it and I was trying hard to keep my cool.

Me:  “Emma, are you mad at me?!”

Emma:  yes

Me:  “You are?  Tell me why.”

Emma:  For asking me if I am mad


Leave a Comment
  1. Lynn States / Aug 29 2010 7:46 pm

    Food for thought. I know that it is difficult at times for both of you. My hope is that Emma will develop strategies over time to help herself sensorially; she is such a precious person.

  2. not supergirl / Aug 30 2010 12:59 am

    So generous of you and Emma to share all this. I love your website, and I’m genuinely thrilled for you both.

  3. Grandma / Aug 30 2010 1:18 am

    I have a couple of cats at home. Cats like to be stroked. One of them reaches over to try to bite my hand if I stroke his back. I hold up my hand in a “stop” pose; and usually he stops. If he does it again he gets “time out.” I think it’s an automatic reaction he has when he is stroked. A kind of left over from being a kitten behavior. But it still hurts and I don’t let him do it.
    I think it’s good that you talk to her and ask her what she is feeling. There’s a possibility that pinching is an emotional response to having good feelings, not bad ones, like with my cat. Temple Grandin talks about how emotions bewildered her. Maybe that’s the case with Emma.
    If I am hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT) I try to tend to those basics. Even as a grown up it’s sometimes hard to recognize it in myself. I appreciate that you honor Emma’s being, and that you also honor your own boundaries – it will help her, too, later to know more about behaviors. I think it’s OK to stop for the day if you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, and wait for another day.
    The work you are doing together is wonderful. It’s all right to take a breather. Love you!

  4. Molly / Aug 30 2010 7:09 pm

    I love you so much! Grace and I are really looking forward to swimming together again with you two !!!

    Praise Him – Psalm 148
    (A song)

    (Great) Aunt Molly : )

  5. pat henshaw / Aug 30 2010 8:18 pm

    I was thinking of motor skills when I saw the video of the young boy using the key board and try to get out Rosh Hashanna (see … I can’t spell it either). But I noticed that he tried to reach “out there” for it … in front of him somehow …. and I remembered in my rememberer somewhere that boys develop fine motor control later in life than girls and maybe boys would do better with something on the wall or something like that. Just a thought!

    I’m still loving the blog.

  6. Trent T / Sep 4 2010 1:31 am

    Great blog! It brings back many memories of when my son was younger (also on the spectrum, but more on the Asperger end). He also had some biting and other behaviors that were hard to cope with; For him, it helped a lot to swing him; The behaviors calmed down for a while, during and after swinging. We still have a ‘vestibular swing’ in the basement, hooked to an I-beam ( here’s a link to a picture of one like ours; ) When I could still pick him up, I would just swing him with my arms–Any swing is good, even a playground swing, and its not necessary to swing high, just a little will do. She might like it! (If she’s not swinging already). All our best to you and Emma– Trent T

  7. Rachael / Sep 5 2010 4:41 am

    I think it is so amazing and inspiring that your daughter is able to express these things to you now. It’s truly incredible.

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