Princess Gail meets Eric’s anger… again

puzzledI was on my way home from NC yesterday, so Gail was home alone with Eric during his most recent autistic melt down. (Picture Macaulay Culkin from the movie “Home Alone,” with his hands on his cheeks with an “oh no!” look on his face.)

Eric had become very upset, but it was not exactly clear as to why. Gail couldn’t get him to either calm down or to explain why he felt that way. She couldn’t diffuse the escalation.

She figured this could have been happening for a number of reasons. Eric wanted to go to the mall and was told he could not. (He had nothing to do at the mall, other than to get more agitated and into trouble. Gail knows better than to take that risk on by herself at those times.) The TV was turned off because Eric’s favorite driver was losing the NASCAR race, and this was increasing his agitation. He was caught sneaking into things, and he hates being caught. He will not be able to see his father next weekend as he will be in NC with Gail and me that week. All this, and/or who knows what else, could have been a reason for his fit.

So he was starting to get in Gail’s face. By that I mean with clenched fists, inches from her face, no matter where Gail turned. He would stop her from doing whatever she was trying to do, blocking her way with what most people would interpret as a very threatening face and pose. He was staring at her and pounding the walls and cabinets with his fists. He was in a rage, yelling a cussing. He then started throwing things all over the house, knocking down chairs, and such. In the past, violence has gotten much worse.

Fortunately, Gail was able to break through by threatening to cancel Eric’s visit with his father today. Eric loves the occasional time he spends with his father. So he voluntarily went up to his room, and gradually the pounding, yelling, cussing, and agitation settled.

This is all very disturbing for Gail, too. She has been through it hundreds of times, but they each take their toll. Gail tries very hard to provide a structured environment for Eric, and to provide verbal and visual cues for him, to maintain some measure of sanity. We have a PECS system on the refrigerator that Eric looks at all the time to know what he is to do next. He would be lost without the help and direction he gets from Gail, and from his school and program staff. Eric is very disabled by his condition, and it is a valid excuse, but it doesn’t take away the horrible toll it takes on my wife.

So today, Gail again proved her Princesshood to me. Even though she was pissed, even though she was hurt to the point of tears for the thanks she gets (“you fucking bitch!!”) for all she does for her son, even though she is tired, really tired of all this endless shit,  she helped him figure it out.

She presented him with a series of typewritten questions, because he can see them better than he can hear them. Also, she had to entice him into cooperating with chocolate chip cookies (which works for me, too!) She asked him to circle the right answers.

 

Why I was mad and angry

1) My favorite driver is Tony Stewart and he was not winning.

2) I wanted to go to the mall to buy a toy and my Mom did not want to take me there.

3) I thought I was grounded for having a fit.

4) I did not get to watch the rest of the race because I was having a fit.

5) I snuck into my Mom’s bathroom, closet and pantry and she caught me.

6) I like to get mad and have a fit.

7) I want to go to my Dad’s next weekend but I will be in North Carolina.

 

Eric circled numbers 2 and 7. He got a cookie. Gail continued with another typewritten sheet:

 

What does a fit get me

1) I think that my Mom will change her mind.

2) I want to scare my Mom.

3) I want to hurt my Mom.

4) I like being angry, throw things, call my Mom bad names, cuss.

5) I am angry with myself and I want to be grounded.

 

Eric did not circle any of these. He got another cookie. And then another typewritten page, this time with some insights:

1) Tony Stewart cannot win every race.

2) My Mom did not want to go to the mall with me. It is very hard for her to wach me to keep out of trouble. I get into things, I do not listen to her, I stare at girls.

3) Toys are meant for children or kids who are young and small. My Mom is not comfortable with me buying toys because I am an adult.

4) When I am angry, my Mom likes me to go to my room. When I am in my room, I cannot break things and cannot hurt her. I am safe and Mom is safe.

5) I cannot watch TV always when I want and what I want. I lost that privilege when I ordered the inappropriate movies. My Mom had to pay for them.

6) Sometimes I cannot go to my Dad’s when he wants because I already have something on my schedule on that day.

 

I’m sure you noticed this is written in the first person. Eric understands it much better that way. Gail will sometimes also address him in the third person. For example, she might say to him, “Eric knows what he is supposed to do.” Don’t ask me why, but he seems to respond to that.

And finally, after another cookie for his cooperation with all this, he got the last typewritten sheet:

What can I do when I am angry

1) Figure out why I am angry

2) Talk about it with my Mom and my Mom will help me

3) Do something to calm myself.

 

He circled 2 and 3. She asked him to write down a few things he could do to calm himself. In his chicken scratch, he scribbled:

Chair (the massage chair we have for this very purpose)

room

music

 

Lessons learned.

I’m talking about my learning. I’m not at all certain Eric has the mental machinery to retain this information or to behave better next time. But there is a lot of wisdom here I can use for myself.

That’s my Princess!  I married up!

8 thoughts on “Princess Gail meets Eric’s anger… again”

  1. I can see why you call her 'Princess Gail', she sounds like an amazing woman and Mother. As someone who has never dealt with autism reading this certainly made me sit back for a few minutes reflecting on the people out there right this very minute dealing with similar situations. It seems the numbers keep going up and up with children being diagnosed, when will they ever find out what causes autism and how best to treat it?

    <abbr>Elaine’s last blog post..Laid-Off, Walgreens Offers Free Health Care</abbr>

  2. Dawn~

    I think the sort of analysis Gail did with Eric, in typewritten slow motion, would really help all of us. I know you are thinking of a special case. In my own case, I need to remember to pray for clarity, and to write things down. It always helps when I journal. The auditory/visual/written preferences are not just about autistics.

    Lainey~

    Yep, she's pretty amazing with Eric, and that is NO EASY TASK! And she did it all by herself as a single mom for 18 years. Of course, as a result, she's crazy as a loon, but that's part of her charm!

    ; )

  3. Oy! Like Elaine said, kudos to Gail for learning how to deal with Eric. I'm sure it must be difficult for him as well not knowing how to properly communicate his feelings. Not sure I could handle that as well as she does. Angry people scare me!

    <abbr>Berryvox’s last blog post..Morrissey – 2009 Tour of Refusal</abbr>

  4. Kayla~

    It is scary, actually. His emotional repertoire is very limited, and anger is his default emotion. He has seen a counselor forever, and one of the things he is currently working on identifying emotions. I doubt he will ever figure it out, though, as it's a basic autistic trait to not read feelings/situations/relationships right. They have no clue what the other person is feeling or of the other person's motivations.

  5. This brings me to tears. Tears for Eric's limited insight and what he must be feeling inside. Anger, rage and confusion for those of us without autism are very frightening emotions. I cannot imagine what those emotions mean to him.

    Tears for Gail, but not tears of sadness. Tears of awe for the amazing understanding, patience and grace she has. I know I don't have it in me.

    And Ferd, just so you know, several nurses came up to me the other night and said how grateful they were that you were in the house, and how awesome you are to work with! You respond quickly with kindness, no attitude, and instill confidence and teamwork in those around you. So…THANK YOU!!!

  6. Bonnie~

    Thanks for all those words! It is always good working with you, too!

    No one knows exactly how the autistic mind thinks and feels. It would be truly a fascinating subject if you didn't have to live with it. (Does that sound harsh? I hope not. We love Eric consistently by virtue of our actions.)

  7. I want to touch on a book written by Famous relationship expert Michael Webb. After 7 years of marriage things started going south fast!!! We started growing apart, focusing too much time on everything else but our relationship. It got pretty bad. Anyway, Michaels book was a great eye opener and it helped my wife and I. If you are in a rocky place and could use some guidence, I suggest you check out "Getting Her Back". It could save your relationship if you really want to win her back.

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