I’m sending out a distress signal.
I know you’re out there somewhere and I need your help.
My son Andrew is hurting himself, and I cannot get him to stop.
Neither can my husband.
Or anyone else for that matter.
We’ve tried mittens and gloves and squeezes and shiny things.
We’ve tried massages and songs and bins filled with rice and beans.
And so far, nothing has worked.
His body is covered in scars and fresh scratches and wounds and we are at a loss.
I don’t want to Google any more theories or read any more research or stare at any more faces that go blank when I ask for assistance and offer only a kind hug and a “Hang in there mom, you’re doing the best you can!”
Because I’m not.
I’m not doing the best I can.
Which is why I want to hear from YOU.
Because only YOU can tell me why he’s doing it, and only YOU can tell me how to help him stop.
From everything we’ve seen (and read, and heard), it appears that Andrew is picking and scratching for sensory input.
He does it when he’s alone, when he’s around others; he does it when he’s happy, sad, mad, bored.
It first started with his fingers, then knuckles, then hands.
In the summer, when he wore shorts, he went after his legs and we contemplated putting him in jeans even when the temperatures began to rise into the three digits but we couldn’t bear to see him uncomfortable.
Now he’s going after his face.
His forehead, his cheeks, the backs of his ears are all riddled with scars and angry red lines and scabs that have very little chances of healing.
I have no idea what to do, I have no idea how to help him, and I’m feeling pretty damn useless right now.
And I’m pretty tired of people saying crap like, “It’s just his autism.”
Um, okay, thanks. Now what?
So if you’re on the spectrum, have experience with this type of behavior and/or stim, and you’re willing to talk to me about it, I would be so grateful for your help.
We often speak of community and advocacy and working together; well, this is me, reaching out, trying to get some insight from those who hopefully know what I do not: How to help my son.
A mom who may not have all the answers, but who will move the earth and the moon to get them.
For those who have asked, I wanted to provide additional information on our son Andrew, who will be 11 this coming March. Andrew is non-verbal (though we are working hard to give him a voice via Proloquo2go and his iPad) and considered to be on the severe end of the autism spectrum. Developmentally, Andrew often falls in the 18-36 month range, though he continues to make amazing progress cognitively thanks to a variety of programs and therapies, both in and outside of the home, facilitated by a group of fabulous people who believe in our son.
As parents, we absolutely respect Andrew’s right to stim as well as his sensory needs, and try to provide him with the means and the environment to carry out those stims and meet those sensory needs whenever possible. Our favorite is his hand flapping; he never looks more free and focused and euphoric than when his hands and arms are going a million miles a minute. I swear, one day he will take flight! But if a stim can lead to a potentially dangerous situation, as his parents our first priority is his safety and that is why we are searching for answers and suggestions. Again, I thank you all and really value ALL of the insight. It helps to paint a more complete picture of our little boy, who we love fiercely and want to see thrive in whatever way makes sense for him.