Living with Violent Behaviours Each Day

James Hunt by James Hunt Additional Needs

James Hunt

James Hunt

Dad to two amazing boys with autism, award winning blogger, podcast host, sharing stories about our lives

It’s not something that’s often readily discussed, but sometimes autism and other disabilities can lead to violent behaviour.

Being a dad of two boys on the spectrum, I’ve experienced a whole range of them over the years, but despite my experiences, they’re still no easier to watch happen each day.

With my eldest, Jude, he has always focused his meltdowns towards himself.

Self-harming by hitting, slapping himself, or jumping onto his knees. This was heart-breaking to watch, and luckily over the years with a lot of changes and adaptations to our lives, it has reduced dramatically.

Luckily right now, the meltdowns are few and far between and a lot less intense.

When they do happen he tends to try and sink his nails into your skin, rake as hard as he can, to show you how upset he is. Whilst it’s not very nice to be on the other end of, it’s manageable, and over quickly.

However, for the last 6 months, my younger son, Tommy, has now become increasingly violent.

When having a meltdown he tries as hard as he can to lash out at me or destroy anything he can get his hands on. He’ll turn his back towards me and kick back like a horse.

He’ll throw his arms windmill like and try to hit me as hard as he can. If I block him and he is close enough he’ll try to sink his teeth into me, and bite down with all his might.

If he breaks away from me he’ll kick the walls, windows, throw chairs, or any object he can get his hands on.

His stamina seems everlasting, with no let-up in intensity for at least 30 minutes.

Then, when it’s all over, when the red mist has disappeared, life goes back to normal. For Tommy at least, it’s as if nothing ever happened.

And for that I’m grateful. I’m glad there’s a little hangover for him from that outburst, that he’s able to recover quickly, be completely ok with me again, and get back to enjoying being together.

But sometimes, for parents like me, it’s less straightforward. As I tidy the house, clearing up the carnage, dealing with the broken mirrors, the holes in the wall, the chairs with 3 legs, it can be difficult to just switch back to normal.

Keeping my emotions in check whilst on the receiving end of these behaviours is a real challenge.

Staying calm, not reacting to the provocation, all the while trying to keep my child, myself, and anyone else around you safe.

Dealing with the emotions that stir up inside me before, during, and after these incidents every day, can be mentally and physically exhausting.

Why is he doing this? How can I help him? What can I do to prevent this happening each day? These are just some of the questions that fill my head all day long.

I’m a 38 year-old man, and I flinch from my 7 year-old son, so conditioned have I become to the threat of receiving a wallop at any given moment. It’s not an easy thing to admit.

Surely I should be able to manage and control someone so much smaller than me?

The truth is in that moment, there’s no controlling him.

It can make it hard to enjoy the good times. You have to find a way to not constantly be on edge, searching for triggers, trying to pre-empt and prevent a meltdown.

When it’s over and I survey the broken furniture, see the cuts and bruises I’ve received, it’s a challenge not to be angry, upset, fed up with going through this each day.

The bruises on the skin heal much more quickly than the bruises on the inside.

Each day requires so much planning, and when it goes wrong I can be left feeling like I’ve failed.

I want to go and do the things I know he enjoys, take him to the park, swimming, etc, but also know how hard it is to deal with these behaviours when out in public, or even worse, near a road.

Right now we’re waiting on further assessments, implementing sensory and routine changes to try and help Tommy self-regulate.

To feel like he can control his feeling better, and have a way of getting the same output he’s actively seeking, more safely.

Hopefully, in time these behaviours will reduce, and the clever, cheeky, inquisitive side of him will be much more prominent again.

So for the many families out there who go through this, I just want you to know that, despite it being rarely talked about, you’re not alone.

Living with these behaviours can be tough.

Tough for our loved ones who lose control in that moment, and tough for those of us who want nothing more than to help them calm down and stay safe.

Seek advice, seek help, and know that you’re not alone.


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