Monday, February 9, 2009

Some times there is no good choice. You just have to be lucky.

I remember David's first fight. It was just after his first birthday and long before his autism symptoms manifest to the point where we could get a diagnosis. His older brother, Sean, had been picking on him. Sean had been all over him like a damp blanket. David had been quietly and patiently waiting for Sean to stop or for my intervention. I wanted this to play out because if I intervened then David would never learn to stand up to Sean or anyone else without someone standing in for him. Finally, Sean got bored with picking on David and let him go. When Sean let him go, David jumped on his back and planted his single, newly cut tooth into Sean's back. I stepped in and would not allow Sean to retaliate.

Fast forward to when David was four. Again David was mad at his brother.

"Hit." David was expressing in a single word what he wanted to do to his brother.

"No Dave. I can't let you hit him." I told him.

"I want to bite." Hitting is not an option so biting is?

"No David. I can't let you bite him either. " I took David away from Sean and had him doing something else.

This scene played out a number of times. David was autistic and I had to teach him not to be violent even in the face of someone picking on him. I could see instinctively that David needed to socialize. Violence on his part could easily shut him off from other children and from the socialization he desparately needed even if the person he clobbered deserved it. So I taught David not to be violent under any circumstances. It isn't right, but any violence on David's part would likely be attributed to his being autistic and not to anything the other party might have done. This is especially true since David was unable to speak for himself.

Fortunately, this was not terribly hard. David has never been prone to be violent. Still, it meant that David would be vulnerable to anyone who wanted to pick on him. But I was lucky. David was popular enough that he was rarely picked on.

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