I load the car and hope that everything goes as planned. A favorite snack is ready to go; drink and electronic device are positioned where they are easily accessible. His backpack is in the trunk with the coat, boots and socks he needs for school. Car diffuser is running with Grounding essential oil blend in it. What’s so tricky about that? How could this possibly go amiss? Because people with Autism like their routine, this setup brings the comfort of consistency to My Boy. The problem is that today some of my other kids are riding in the car with him too.
Thankfully, my Daughter and Teen know to stay completely silent for the entire trip. They know that they can not have an electronic device for the drive and they can not have anything to eat. They will sit in silence and read for the half hour we are on our journey together.
The most difficult part is that My Boy needs to sit in the front seat instead of his usual seat in the back. I can’t risk putting him next to my Daughter. In all honesty, My Boy does better riding in the front than riding in the back next to someone anyway – so the system seems to work.
After he’s done yelling at me.
I’ve said it before – every action, every behavior – is communication. So how does my nonverbal, 12 year old child with Autism tell me he doesn’t like to ride in the front seat? How will he express to me that he doesn’t like the change in routine?
Simple, he’ll hit me.
If he is mildly annoyed it will be a light tap on my arm while he bites his hand. The angrier he is, the harder he will hit me with his hand, his head, his device or even his food. He will also use hair pulling, pinching and biting if he feels that I am not listening to him.
What is an Autism Momma to do?
I am very sorry fellow Autism parents. I have no amazing words of wisdom to get your through tough car rides. I try to have a ‘special’ snack for him on days that I know the drive will be tough. I will also try my best to keep it as part of the routine – other kids are in the car on Tuesdays for example.
As he is yelling at me with his behavior, I tell him that I am listening to him. I will say over and over again that I know he is angry/upset. I think it is paramount for us as Autism parents to remember that our nonverbal children need to know that they are heard. That what they are saying through their actions is important. Since I know he is struggling and being stern with him is only going to escalate his behavior, I will gently remind him that he needs to talk nicely to me.
Above all, you need to stay safe. You can not safely drive if you are being pummeled. Pull over if you need to. Make an unexpected stop in a parking lot and get out and walk.
Getting to your destination is not more important than your life.