Today I picked up the Pickle’s home/school book and opened it. My heart sank.
It’s happening again.
The Pickle spent his first year at a mainstream school, then we moved him to a specialist school. He needed to be moved, his sensory issues were making him more and more isolated from his classmates as he couldn’t join in, stay seated and needed to be removed a lot from the classroom.
The other problem when he was at mainstream… was pushing.
“Pushing” is a word I’ve grown to absolutely hate. I used to associate it with ‘pushing a door open’ or ‘pushing an agenda’. Now I associate it with “Pickle pushing small children over.”
It was a nightmare of epic proportions. It started the year before at nursery. They were overrun with kids, understaffed and not trained whatsoever to deal with autism. He used to get overstimulated by the noisy, chaotic environment, he wouldn’t do what the others were doing, so he was left to his own devices. He didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing, which made the anxiety and sensory issues worse. Then he would start to push others. Hard.
It started slowly, he did it once, then a couple of weeks later, he did it again. Then the gaps in between got less, until suddenly, all the children were scared of him. He had always been the quiet child that no one really noticed. Now he was a crazy tyrant, running around the room, pushing over little girls like dominos.
Most of the children wouldn’t play near him. They would walk away if he came near. Some of them would sit down on the floor as soon as they saw him coming for fear of being shoved. Sensible really, but it broke my heart.
It became a huge problem. I started to dread going to pick him up. Every single time, there was an awful story. I started to have special arrangements to pick him up from a different area, as the transition of me picking him up, speaking to his key worker would send him into a pushing frenzy. I was the only mum who had to hide round the corner to pick up her child.
One summer day, the kids were all out in the garden playing on the trikes and in the sand. I went to collect the Pickle and went into the garden. The Pickle was peddling around on a bike. I had a quick update with his key worker, told how many times he had pushed that day… then we both clocked him at the same moment running towards a girl (it was always girls?!) at full speed. We both shouted and ran towards him but we had no chance. He pushed this little girl so hard into the brick wall behind her. She smacked her head and went down. There was a huge commotion, blood, tears, a crowd of excited children and worried adults. The girl was picked up and rushed off. I dragged the Pickle towards the door in slow motion with him hanging off me giggling and everyone staring. I was the mother with no control over her son. The mother who’s son hurts other children. The mother with that child you don’t want your child to be around.
Summer holidays came and went… I couldn’t take him anywhere, trust him to play near other children. He pushed a child off a playground bridge. He pushed and pulled hair in soft play. I had a 3 month old baby, so I couldn’t shadow him. The summer holidays were long.
September came. Pickle started school…. and the pushing stopped!! Amazing! Happy happy days! 1 week went by, 1 term, Christmas came and went, no pushing!
The second term started well, then one day I came in to collect him, and was told he had pushed another child.
The hair on my neck stood up, I got that horrible feeling in my stomach that I hadn’t felt for a long time. “Oh crap” I thought.
Please let it be a one off.
And it was… until a few days later, when he pushed again.
Within a month, we were back to an obsessive pushing regime. It impulsive, it made no sense. No triggers, no patterns. He would get a look in his eye, and just go for it. Always the girls, or smaller children. He started pushing his baby sister at home too. I couldn’t leave them for a second, not even to go to the bathroom. I got so stressed out that I bought my first pack of cigarettes for 6 years.
We tried EVERYTHING! ABC sheets, positive reinforcement, removal of privileges, time outs, visuals, we got the autism specialist teacher involved (although she couldn’t get in to see us for 3 MONTHS!!!).
In the end, the behaviour was becoming so difficult, that the headteacher of the school suggested that he might be better off in a specialist setting. I was heartbroken, but decision was made that he should be moved.
I had 2 months before the end of the school year, and I put every energy I had left into finding him a new school, then securing him a place for September to avoid extra upheaval for him. That had its challenges too – the school wasn’t sure if they wanted to take him because of his speech delay, and because of his sensory needs (I.e the pushing).
Well I fought hard and I got him in. He started in September last year.
It was the best decision we ever made for him. His development soared. His language, social skills and understanding all blossomed and he was genuinely happy. Every single day. He loved school. We were all happy. Things were good.
He didn’t push. He was involved in everything his class did. 1 term goes by. Then Christmas, then into our second term. Half term came and went…. I’ve got trust in him again around other children. I can relax more when we’re out. I think often about how much better things are, and how well he’s doing.
…Then I opened his home/school book on Thursday.
The Pickle has a need to chew (another sensory thing) but he’s never ever EVER bitten a child?! He was queueing up at school to wash his hands, and bit the child in front of him. Seriously???
Same familiar sinking feeling in my gut… same thought process. “Maybe it’s a one off’. It sounds like it was dealt with well… he’s at a school that understands behaviours like this… “Hopefully it was a one off”. “PLEASE let it be a one off!”
He comes home from school the next day, I nervously open his home/school book…. nothing!!! He’s had a great day. Phew! “Hopefully just a one off”.
The Pickle comes home today, I open his home/school book, and my heart sinks.
It’s happening again…
I’ve played this game twice now. The biting is new, but I know how it works. I know we’re about to have a really… REALLY tough few months. I know this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. I’m already mentally preparing to start working with the school. Daily phone calls. Visits. Shame and embarrassment with what I’ll hear on a daily basis. Fear of the other children rejecting him. Wondering what other parents are saying when their child comes home with bite marks. Not being able to take him out without an incident. I’m ready to do all the interventions again, that I know deep down, probably won’t work. Not until he decides that he’s ready to stop.
I’ve played this game before, I just haven’t figured out yet how to win.
Wish me luck.