Today was a bad day. It happens sometimes; we all have bad days. But this one was especially bad for Sawyer, and something happened that I’ve prayed would never happen.
It started because he didn’t make his AR (Accelerated Reader) goal, and he missed out on the AR party. He has been talking about trying to reach his AR goals at home, and trying to figure out how many books he’d need to read just so he could go to the AR party, so I know it broke his heart that he didn’t make his goal. Then, he lost a game on Kahoot, a site they use at school for educational games. I’m not sure how it escalated from there, but it happened: Sawyer hit someone.
The call I got from the elementary school was a rollercoaster of emotions. First I was sad that Sawyer was having a rough day, and then I was mortified that he lashed out with aggression and hit a girl in his class and worried for the girl he hit. Then I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him as his school counselor told me that he got so upset over getting in trouble for hitting her that he said “This is the worst day ever! I might as well go jump off a cliff!”
Sawyer didn’t want to be in the counselor’s office when she called me. She told me he was very worried about how I would react, and that made my heart feel so heavy. Of course I never want him to hit anybody like that, but I also feel sad that he had such a rough day. I thought about how he’s probably felt all day, and even though he will be disciplined for hitting the girl, I will also hug him tight and tell him that I’m sorry he missed out on the AR party and that Kahoot was hard. The counselor said she wasn’t concerned about his jumping off a cliff comment, but that she was required to tell me about it, and I agreed that I wasn’t concerned that he’d actually hurt himself- I think he was just mad.
Sawyer has always struggled with regulating his emotions. Aggression can be an issue with children on the autism spectrum, either because they are nonverbal or because they lack the understanding of how to use words to express themselves. Think of babies and how they often lash out at others or their environment when they get upset; it doesn’t mean they’re a bad kid or a bully. It just means they don’t know how to use words to communicate their feelings. When Sawyer was younger, if he got mad or upset he would run full force and bang his head into walls, tables, or countertops. I would try so hard to stop him before he could hurt himself but there were a couple of times I was sure he had given himself a concussion. That was a short-lived phase- thank God- but he still struggles with overreacting to certain things. Things that seem small or insignificant to me or you (for instance, Sawyer told me his day got worse after the hitting incident because he lost “his” seat in math class, and then his stuff fell out of his backpack) really hurt his feelings or upset him, and we are working every day to overcome that.
When Sawyer got home from school today, we talked about what set him off and why he felt the need to hit the girl in his class. He stated that after he lost his game on Kahoot, he got mad and said “I always lose!” and he thought she had mocked him because she laughed and repeated him, so he slapped her hard on the shoulder. I explained to him that it’s never ok for him to hit someone, no matter if they mocked him or not, and that if she was really mocking him he needed to tell her to stop or tell the teacher. He said he understood and was sorry that he hit her. I didn’t punish him any further because he already lost his recess and was talked to by his teacher, counselor, and my sister at school; I felt like any more punishment might send him into a meltdown.I asked if he apologized and he said he did, and that the girl gave him a thumbs up afterward, so I’m happy to hear that she seems to have forgiven him, and I hope her parents don’t think too harshly of Sawyer.
A lot of my friends with kids on the autism spectrum tell me that their children either got more aggressive or developed aggression as they grew older, and that is something that I think about every day. Now that this incident has happened, I’m especially worried. I know puberty has a lot of negative effects in kids even when they don’t have special needs, so I worry that all those hormones are going to turn my sweet boy into a mean young man. I can only try my best now to teach him better ways to deal with his emotions and hope and pray that he won’t end up hurting himself or anyone else.
But that’s all in the future… For today? My little buddy has had a rough day and I’m going to hug him and tell him how much I will always love him, no matter if he had a bad day or a good day.