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Special Needs Parenting – I Quit! (…Can I do that?)

When I picked Ted up from school today, his teacher came out to talk to me. That doesn’t immediately mean trouble, but more often than not, it does. Especially as of late. He’s in a self-contained, co-op autism classroom. Four kiddos, one teacher and an aide. Pretty good ratio. And yet…


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Today, apparently, was (by my count) the fourth school day in a row that Ted has physically attacked another student in his class. The victim was not instigating or egging Ted on. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to his continuing attacks. This student is just off doing his own thing, and then, BAM! Ted hits him repeatedly. NOTE: Ted has to get up and walk over to him in order to physically accost him. You’d think after, say, the second assault, that the staff would escort Ted by the other student if he must walk by him in order to get to the bathroom, or whatever. But, no. Ted tees off on this kid. Multiple times today.

You know that whole ABC thing that ABA therapists are always talking about? Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence? Yeah. Well, there, apparently IS no Antecedent. Ted just walks over to him during random times during the day and hits. Behavior – duh. Consequence? That’s the thing. This school is not allowed to punish kids. They cannot have time outs. They cannot lose their recess. Ted gets extra “work” – tracing letters, word wall, whatever. This is, clearly, not enough incentive for Ted to stop attacking this kid. The teacher has to call the principal and find out what they can do.

I feel so badly for this other boy. And, frankly, if I were his parents, I’d want to kick my ass. They don’t send their kid to school for him to get beat on. They send him there expecting that the staff will not only educate him, but keep him safe.

I feel the staff is failing both of our children. Ted is forming patterns. He is making habits and routines. They are the wrong sort of habits. Beyond hitting other kids, for example, they also do not stop him from throwing his chair or tipping his desk over. They make him pick everything up AFTER the behavior, but do not try to stop him. So, of course, he thinks he can do the same thing at home. I, on the other hand, DO stop him from throwing furniture, breaking windows and hitting his brother and me.

Ted won’t be going to school tomorrow. I don’t think I should send him back until the school can provide me with a behavioral plan that will not only keep other children safe, but prevent him from even being allowed access to have physical contact with the other child.

I’m frustrated, I am afraid for my son – one day he is going to try to hit the wrong kid. And HE is going to be the one who gets pummeled. ABA doesn’t work for Ted, behaviorally. He has a secondary diagnosis of disruptive behavior disorder and is on a pharmaceutical cocktail that would kill a horse. Yet we cannot get a handle on this behavior. We cannot do CBT or counseling, because, cognitively, Ted is not in a place to benefit from that. Can he get kicked out of Autism school? What happens then? How can I educate him, but keep other kids safe? My mental health cannot handle home schooling, nor, frankly, do I have the right skillset to teach him. I’m getting close to the end of my rope. I love the little bugger, but I have no new ideas. No new tricks up my sleeve. I’m tapped out.

And, I want to tap out. Anyone else want to give this a shot for awhile?

Written by Kelly Hafer. Kelly is a Navy wife and mother to three children; 16 year old NT, 6 and 5 year old boys on the spectrum, and a bun in the oven. In her spare time, Kelly does is part of the Military Special Needs Network Executive Board. You can contact her via email at

17 comments on “Special Needs Parenting – I Quit! (…Can I do that?)

  1. Jen Pattison Troester
    November 15, 2012

    Ugh, I’m sorry. This stinks. I have no idea what the schools offer, but here they have what they call a “behavior class” for kids who are more aggressive and can’t be in the PDD class. Is there such a thing? Something that really intensively works on behavior? if he’s in an ABA class and ABA doesn’t work, clearly they need to make a change. K went through super aggressive stuff in kinder and I was just waiting for the other kid’s parents to call me (there was always one kid who was the target). I felt AWFUL about it, but the thing was, I wasn’t there. The school was the one failing.

    I do know kids who have gotten expelled here. They need to provide education, though, whether that is at home tutoring or a placement elsewhere…def time for a meeting.

    • militaryspecialneedsnetwork
      November 15, 2012

      Hey Jen – thanks. Awesome ideas. I don’t *think* they offer those things, but I’ll be on the horn all day trying to figure stuff out. You are right, though, this isn’t really “my” issue – it’s the school’s. They are the ones allowing him to keep hitting this one specific kid. God, do I feel bad about that.

      Thanks for the comment and the help. 😉

  2. Jessica Eastman
    November 15, 2012

    I don’t have any extraordinary advice, except to say that I’m also at the “giving up, time to tap out” point. Sometimes I find that my ASD child becomes more aggressive and has random bouts of crappy impulse control when he is overwhelmed. So, we take a break for a week (or longer), and don’t do school or therapies. We don’t leave the house much at all. We just decompress. After a few days, I’m ready to send him back to school and he is also ready. His behavior is usually better when he goes back.

    • militaryspecialneedsnetwork
      November 15, 2012

      Hey Jessica – yes. This. We’ve actually been on break from OT and ST for, oh, about 6 months because I just can’t keep overwhelming ALL of us with this crazy schedule. Am actually wondering if I need to stop ABA for a bit and do more OT stuff instead. I just need to clone myself. Or respite. One is about as likely as the other.

  3. Celeste Cornish
    November 15, 2012

    No tapouts allowed in parenting, unfortunately. Just an idea: Is there a physical barrier they can use to separate your kid from the other one, like one of those blue floor mats or a fake wall with the rollers? Maybe if your son can’t *see* the other kid, he’ll focus his energy somewhere else. Is your son verbal? Have you asked him about the other boy? Maybe there’s a reason he’s doing it, but (as is always the case with the little guys) he doesn’t know how to verbalize. Maybe give him a crayon and ask him to draw a pic of the other kid. That would at least give you an idea of how your son perceives him, and maybe give you an idea of what’s going on there.

    • militaryspecialneedsnetwork
      November 15, 2012

      Hey Celeste – I am all about physical barriers. I’m really surprised they aren’t not only doing that, but escorting Ted around the room – as opposed to acting surprised when he uses a trip to the bathroom as an excuse to go hit the kid.

  4. militaryspecialneedsnetwork
    November 15, 2012

    If any one has any suggestions, PLEASE feel free to comment. Thanks! 🙂

  5. Niksmom
    November 15, 2012

    Oof, that’s a rough one. I wish I had some great insights to offer. :-/ All I have is a virtual hug and the hope that school, and maybe Ted’s doctor, can find better ways of being proactive in this situation.

  6. Jeni Wamaling
    November 15, 2012

    Kelly, I feel for you, more than you can understand. My Charlie is only violent toward me and my husband, so far, but I know how you feel. Do you have a therapist or psychologist who does work with Ted at all who could make some suggestions? I know, with us, it’s always, “Ignore, and redirect.” So, when Charlie goes to bite my hand, I gently push his chin away without making any kind of eye contact or stopping my conversation with his sister or what have you, and then putting his hand on a calming toy. What motivates Ted? Does he have particular items or reinforcers that make him feel safe? There may be something about this other student that is just driving Ted’s senses crazy…even if he doesn’t seem to be egging him on. I’ve heard a certain smell or the predominance of a wardrobe color or patterns on one’s clothes can drive people on the spectrum batty.

    I really do feel for you and wish you could tap out. Do you get respite care through the Navy at all? If you do, I’d say, it’s time to just take an hour or two for you.

  7. militaryspecialneedsnetwork
    November 15, 2012

    Hey Jeni – due to Ted’s background issues, ignoring is not the best option for us. Ted is adopted, was neglected/abused in foster care, exposed to drugs, etc. On some very small level you can reason with him (very small level), but he is functioning at a pretty basic level. He just doesn’t fit many of the boxes that other autistic kids seem to fit into.

    He actually woke up this morning with very goopy eyes and actually told me that his belly hurt. That in and of itself is HUGE. I’m wondering if we have the flu bug going on. And pink eye. I’d love it if that was the explanation. And that when it is gone he’ll stop hitting this little boy.

    No respite here. They don’t have anyone on staff that can handle Ted. They offered to run a classified ad for someone…so…I just said no. I just can’t handle that right now. 😦

    Thanks for the great info and comment! I appreciate it.

  8. akbutler
    November 15, 2012

    I have no good advice except that I get it. I get those notes home too – the ones that say my son hit or kicked a student for “no reason”. And I’ll press it asking what was happening around him, or 20 min before, or maybe even the day before with this kid. Because I know that my kid has some idea in his head of why he’s doing it but can’t explain why. That’s where the ABC stuff falls short. I try to remember that behavior is communication and that he must be trying to tell us something. But what that is I don’t know.
    The no consequence thing is hard. I am not sure I understand their reasoning, because he needs boundaries. My son is removed from the classroom to a quiet room to calm and the removal is hard enough on him.
    I live in parental fear of that phone call from a classmate’s parent saying your kid hit/kicked/screamed at mine.
    Wish I lived closer to be there for you to tap out for a while.

  9. adria walter
    November 15, 2012

    It sounds like you need to have a meeting to ammend his IEP, to include a strong behavior plane in place. It is the schools responsibility to make sure every child has a safe learning enviroment. If he has outburst tendencies he should have 1/1 para support. It would be for the safety of others and to help Ted be successful in school. I hope everything works out for you!

  10. This is a tough one alright. Just a thought…since the “extra work” doesn’t seem to be working and there are no other natural consequences (gee that almost sounded intellectual…) what if they were to approach it from another angle. Say a “reward” incentive. I’m not sure what cognitive level Ted is at but a social story of what type of behaviour is acceptable (eg. hands to himself) and when he does it, he immediately gets reinforced for the good behaviour and earns some time on something he loves to do. Then lengthen the reward slowly towards some type of reward chart/system. They may have already tried this so my apologies if I’m repeating.

    Hang in there!

  11. mpate
    November 30, 2012

    Keep on trying. Basically the fact that you do nothing but bitch and burn bridges proves that YOU are the single reason why your children will never succeed. Keep on complaining. Keep on ruining everything that could help your kids. Keep on with the back patting comments that make you feel like you are “trying.” Then go ruin “bun in the oven” number 2 and claim that screw up isnt a result of poor parenting, too. Ridiculous.

  12. Stacie
    May 4, 2013

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I
    am experiencing difficulties with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I can’t join it.
    Is there anyone else getting similar RSS issues? Anybody who knows
    the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

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