I worked with a boy last week who threw a tantrum. I’ve worked with tantrums at it isn’t usually a problem. Watch this video on how I worked with a little girl a few months ago to see what I mean.
But this boy last week was different. I thought he was going to die. I thought I was never going to be able to make any progress. I was sure his mother would storm off in a fit. It started gradually, with him moving around my office more. Then he began to moan and shake his hands. Pretty soon he was letting out high pitched screeches. For some reason, just because I have some tools to apply with autistic kids, I think I should be the expert and know how to handle all situations. I didn’t know how to handle this. I was afraid I had hurt him, that he’d hurt himself, that his mother would freak out and never come back.
The lobby to my office is spacious and well lit. It is usually pretty quiet and people pass each other with polite hellos or the occasional head nod. Today, though, they were very studiously averting their gaze from the scream boy in the middle of the hall. It was my third lesson with the boy and I had just walked him out to find his mother. She was waiting patiently on a couch in the lobby. From what I remember there was someone else on a couch near her, someone just entering the restroom, and a third person waiting on the elevator. And the boy – my client – was screaming his head off! It has started out small, during our lesson. His self-regulating behaviors increased and pretty soon he was shuffling around my office gesticulating wildly. I called it quits after several minutes of this. We weren’t going to make an progress today. But my mortification set in when he entered the lobby and raised his voice by about 10 decibels. I wished I had earplugs – and had also distributed earplugs to everyone up and down the hall. The massage therapy going on down at the end of the hall? Fat chance! I blush pretty easily and I felt the blood in my ears. It wasn’t so much that he was making noise. Or even that he was screaming.
You would think his head would fall off with how hard he was screaming. Or maybe the glass on the window would shatter like in the movies. It didn’t; he just kept on screaming.
I have it easy. I work with a child for 10 minutes or 60 minutes at a time. After that I send the family on their way and spend the next three hours pondering how I can of the most use to that child for the next 10 or 60 minute block. The parent, who goes away with their child, comes back with their child, is the one with big decisions, questions and next steps to consider.
I am grateful for the work that I do and the difference I can make in children’s lives. I am also grateful I can leave it at work at the end of the day. What are you grateful for?