Friday, March 4, 2011

Rigidly Determined to Help My Son

My wife was at school to witness our son’s latest major incident.

It actually happened right after a big success, when he gave a great presentation for the Black History Fair the other day. The fair ended shortly before what normally would be the end of the school day. Parents who attended the fair were given the option to take their child home right away, or have the child stay a few more minutes until class was formally dismissed.

Kai said he wanted to stay and finish out his school day so my wife was allowed to stand in the back of the classroom.

One of Kai’s classmates, however, did not stay. That boy’s mother decided to take her child home. Another woman wanted to take a picture of her grandson next to the display he had made. And that was enough to set off my son.

Kai couldn’t stand that all of his classmates were not in the classroom as the teacher started to wrap up the day. He started screaming for the boy who was having his picture taken to come back into the room. And although that boy hurried back, there was no calming Kai down when the other boy went home.

My wife tried to settle him down. But, when he kept screaming and disrupting the class, she let the teaching assistants handle it. Kai continued his tirade, using threatening language and trying to hurt the TAs. After hearing about all of his incidents at school, it was the first time either of us saw it first hand.

Kai, like many kids on the autism spectrum, has issues with rigidity. He likes things to be the way they always are. If there is a change, even one that seems minor to most of us, it can lead to a meltdown.

It is hard to understand why a classmate leaving school a few minutes early should cause such a huge eruption. And because it is difficult for us to relate to, it can be easy to get frustrated with our son. We’ve tried to teach him to be less rigid. We try to prepare him whenever there will be a change in his routine. Why can’t he adjust? Why can’t he learn?

But when I start to feel the frustration, I need to remind myself that I can’t be frustrated with my son. My frustration should be with autism. Autism is why my son is inflexible. Autism is why he gets so upset over little things.

And so, my son doesn’t deserve my frustration. He deserves my patience, my love, and understanding. But, what he needs most of all, is my determination to keep working hard to help him overcome his disability. And, on that, I will be rigid.


  1. Very well said. I, too, think as you. I have caught myself getting frustrated...and have felt shame for getting so. It is the love for my son that allows me to continue to grow as a father. I get far less frustrated now than before...I actually have no excuse for any frustration....I retire in two days. My time will then become his...full time. We are very much looking forward to it.

  2. I've come to realize that it is human to become frustrated. We just have to do what we can to remind ourselves that our kids may need more patience from us.

    I hope you enjoy your retirement! Being with your son full time may be a big challenge in itself. Best to you on that!


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