Emma’s entire system was crashing.
“You have to ask Mommy! Mommy can I go on the roller coaster with Gaby, please?” She cried over and over again through screams and tears.
It was heart breaking and anyone with a neuro-typical child would think – oh just let her go on it one more time and then go home. I even thought this a number of times as I tried to peel her off the pavement where she had fallen in a heap of tears, snot pouring from her nose, her hands made into tight fists while hitting herself in the head, on her chest, legs, arms wherever she could before I, or any of us could stop her. The biting is horrible because it can break the skin and then there’s blood, and later scabs and enormous angry blue and purple bruises that can last for more than a week, reminding all of us of her agony. But the hitting – a quick, violent punch to the face is shocking to witness and as a parent, it’s difficult not to feel one has done something horribly, horribly wrong. How can this sweet, blissful child do this to herself?
Emma waiting for Joe, Nic and Gaby while they ride on the Corkscrew
Richard and I have always said to the children – hitting is wrong. We don’t do it, we don’t want them to ever do it to each other and until Emma began hitting herself, it hadn’t occurred to us to add – we don’t hurt ourselves. We don’t hit others or ourselves. We say it, but I don’t know that it makes a difference. When Emma’s brain has become set on something, no amount of calm, reassuring logic seems to help her. No amount of soothing, we just have to vacate the premises. It’s our only hope. Kind of like shutting the whole system down, a kind of reboot. We have tried the other option, which is to let her go on one more ride or do whatever it is one more time and the misery, the abject misery continues. Like an addict who has to have that drink or that drug even while bringing them no real solace. There’s no relief to be had at a certain point.
“Emmy it’s going to be okay. We’re going to go home now. We can ride the little roller coaster one more time and you can sit with Gaby and then we have to go home,” we told her.
But Emma’s brain couldn’t take in this information it was already in lock down mode. I gave her a banana to eat and then everyone, our once cheerful little group, now more weary warriors than a family intent on having a lovely day at an amusement park trooped along. She was able to sit with Gaby on the little roller coaster for one last ride and then we trudged back to the car while Emma kept looking over her shoulder at the wooden roller coaster named Roar. As we headed home Emma said, “It’s okay, we’ll come back tomorrow.”
“No Em. Tomorrow we’re going to traintown where there are different rides and then we’re going to Uncle Andy’s wedding,” we told her.
“Different rides,” Emma repeated, sadly. “We’ll come back soon,” she said. There was a wistful tone to her words, and we knew it wasn’t likely that we would ever come back to this part of the world. But there would be other amusement parks and maybe one day Emma’s massive sensory issues will have abated to such a degree that these kinds of episodes will become rarer.
We can only hope.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com
The self inurous behavior is heart breaking. My son rarely does this any more, but my daughter still does. He is able to recognise some of what he is feeliong and can express it a little b”it. When he is really distressed he says things like the supermaket is closed, the hairdresser is closed “(but he hates getting his hair cut so I dont understand that one) (and if he is really upset)” the gluten free shop is closed” normally accompanied by crying. It means he is telling us he is sad. Roslyn cant do any of this so lashes out at people and when prevented slaps her head. I wonder if children who have better communication or can interpret what they are feeling nself harm as much? Or is it just because they feel so bad internally they need to feel bad physically? I wish I knew what they were thinking.