Some of you may know that Red, our oldest (13), has Asperger's Syndrome. Along with that, he also has ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, mild Savants, and Obsessive tendencies. Oh, and puberty. Please, let us not forget that little gem. When most people meet Red, they think he's a normal kid. He's a little quiet, polite, somewhat friendly ... in fact, some people have even told me that I'm imagining all of these traits - making it all up. The only defense I have is that he is different at home. Completely different. A psychiatrist diagnosed him. A psychologist he saw for six months not only confirmed that diagnosis, but thinks the psychiatrist may have missed a few things. We were just beginning to look into other behaviors when the psychologist left the organization she was with and couldn't see him anymore.
So much has gone on with Red over the last few months. So very much that no one knows. We've talked to a few trusted advisors, but we just keep coming back to the same result: no one knows how to handle my child. The violent outbursts, the attitude that no one has authority over him, bullying his younger sisters and brother, stealing ... all of it is getting worse and worse. We left the area of "out of control" months ago. And here we sit ... scratching our heads, and crying out to God for relief.
Two years ago, Red pulled a knife on me, threatened to stab me. We had to have him "Baker Acted", which means he was taken to a mental health facility because he was in danger of hurting himself or others. He was released the next day, because they didn't feel there was any sense of urgency to his actions. Right ... because pulling a knife on your mom is *totally* ok. Last year, he punched me so hard that I almost lost consciousness. I don't even remember what the fight was about, but I suspect that (much like the norm) it was him refusing to do something simple that we had asked of him, and him freaking out and - literally - going ballistic. That night, I called and had him arrested. There are no better words to describe the situation than "it sucked". I felt like a failure as a mom, like I had screwed this child up so badly that he would never again be the giggling, lego-building, silly child he once was. I felt personally responsible. After the arrest, Red was placed in a diversionary program (which did *nothing*), and a case manager was assigned to his case. The case manager has proved to be invaluable over this past year, but even she has had limitations within the "system". The judge eventually dismissed his case.
Most recently, his behavior has been spiraling out of control. Everyday, he finds a new level of disrespect, a new way to skirt the real issues, a new way to make us feel even lower than we had before. Some of his most recent actions:
~ In March, he told me to "f-off". During the following fight, he hit me in the face several times, popped the lens out of my glasses (thankfully, cheap plastic frames - popped right back in), and bruised my chest. When I decided to call for the police, he concocted such a tale, that they ended up arresting me for child abuse. Just two weeks later, when the case finally got in front of a judge, the charges were dropped because his statements were so contradictory. My defense attorney told me the judge said I never should have even been arrested.
~ The very next week, Red attacked me because I reminded him that he had, once again, refused to do any schoolwork. My dad witnessed the attack, and said he thinks Jack struck me more than twenty times. The blows landed in my shoulder and head. I ended up in the hospital with some minor tissue damage in my shoulder, and a concussion - which was serious enough that they admitted me. We didn't call for help that time ... because I just didn't feel anyone could help us anymore. We had already tried several avenues and running into dead ends over and over.
~ Most recently, we have discovered that he has been stealing money out of my dad's bank account. Initially, it was just a few dollars here and there at the 7-11, but it gradually grew from there. He would take money out of the atm, or go to other stores and make purchases. Last week, my dad called the bank to get his checking account balance, and he was informed that they were closing his account for a fraud investigation. Just the night before, more than $400 had been taken from the account for online purchases. We found out that the day before, he had snuck out and gone to wal-mart, and spent over $175 on computer equipment (and then came home and told Dad that some guy just handed it to him). We had no choice, we had to call the police and file charges against him. He wasn't arrested, but the case has gone to the state's attorney's office for review, and the situation certainly isn't over yet.
On a daily basis, he bullies Fluffy and Smiley. He pushes them around, terrorizes them, says hateful things to them. He threatened to beat down my dad (who is almost 70 years old and is on oxygen for CHF and COPD). He constantly curses at me and Hubby, and then treats us like we don't even exist. This child honestly feels that no one can touch him - that he is above reproach... and above us all.
So what does this have to do with consequences? Well... Red doesn't think there are any. He has absolutely no understanding of the pain he has caused. He doesn't realize that every cold shoulder he turns feels like a knife stabbing me in the heart. He doesn't realize that we aren't trying to punish him (ever), but that we're always trying to help him. With all of his diagnoses, I've tried to teach him that he doesn't have excuses, just different challenges. My only prayer for him - for all of my children - is that he is successful. And, I'm not talking Bill Gates / President of the USA / Nobel Prize kind of success ... I just want them to be happy, with loving families of their own, with hopes and dreams and passions that they want to chase - and maybe even capture. At this rate, Red isn't going to make it, because he is dooming himself, and he just doesn't see it. But then again, how many of us *could* at 13? But then again (again), that's what parents are for! To keep their head-strong and stubborn teens on the right path so they don't self-destruct.
And then there's the fallout. Red went to the Wednesday night youth group at church, and told someone (or a number of someones - we don't quite have the whole story) that I abuse him daily and he finally got me arrested and if I ever touch him again, he was going to call the cops and have me arrested again. Those children went home and told their parents, those parents went to the church with their concerns. Part of the fallout is that my position in the ministry has changed because parents are fearful that I'm an abuser. Which, I get. Really I do. And if you're one of the people that went to church, please know I'm not angry. I'm sad. I'm sad that I feel like I'm wearing a scarlet letter and that the people who are surrounding me don't understand the complexity of the situation, and I'm sad that if you know me, you know that I'll always give an honest answer and you should just ask me what's going on instead of talking behind my back.
More fallout? My dad's health is taking a real hit. He's on oxygen more than ever, he get panicked so easily. He feels like he does nothing but fight with Red all day long. He has been Red's best friend since the day he was born, and he never imagined that Red would fight him the way he is now. The night I was in the hospital with a concussion, my dad had to be taken to the hospital for another heart attack, and was in for a month.
More fallout? Hubby and I have taken so much time from work that we're at risk of losing our jobs. We've only taken a couple of days that weren't Red-related. The rest has been because of trips to the ER or, you know, going to jail. (ugh. you have no earthly idea how much it sucks to write that. ugh ugh ugh)
More fallout? The Littles are starting to pick up on Red's behavior. They can't see the punishments he gets (because it isn't a time-out, and that's what they understand), so they have started to lie, and hit, and fight. If big brother can do it, why can't I? Fluffy has even started telling my dad that she hates him, because she hears her big brother say it.
How far do they reach? How deep can they injure? There really are no limits.
How do you teach consequences to a child that just doesn't understand?
Even worse ... how do you teach consequences to a child that doesn't want to be bothered to understand?
I realize that by writing this, I could very well be inviting some serious negative feedback. I would like to ask you to please use caution when responding. I didn't write this as a tale of woe, but because I know there are other parents out there who struggle. I know that other families are out there who are frightened of their own children. I have chosen to make our situation public because despite all of the fallout and frustration, we know that something good will ~eventually~ come out of this. We know that under all the junk my kid is facing, he's still an awesome kid, and he's not gone - just a little lost.
How do I know this? Because God made fluffy bunnies.