My son isn’t naughty. He’s autistic. Sure, he’s mild, but a lot of his behaviour can be explained by the fact that his brain works very differently from the average seven-year-old.
At least, that’s what I tell myself.
On Saturday during soccer my son punched the coach’s son deliberately. Horrified, I pulled him off the soccer field and asked him why he’d done it.
“Because the ball was kicked to me and he kicked it and it wasn’t for him.”
Autistic or naughty?
I sat Giovanni down and told him not to move and raced up to the poor little boy who had been struck and who was crying. You couldn't make a nicer boy that this little one. He is lovely, lovely, lovely.
I was mortified, more so when both of his parents went out of their way to console me.
They were aware of Giovanni's autism diagnosis and they are two of the loveliest people I know. They said it was okay and urged their son to forgive Giovanni.
Gosh, I appreciated their efforts so much but I kept picturing them all driving home after the game, explaining to their poor little boy that Giovanni is autistic and doesn't always make the best decisions.
"Yes, he hit you deliberately but he didn't mean it. His brain works a bit differently. We have to cut him some slack," I imagined them saying.
But I just couldn't let something this serious slide. Knowing I was doing the exact opposite of what I am meant to do to punish an autistic child, I walked up to Giovanni and gave him a piece of my mind, loudly.
"You are NOT allowed to hit people. I don't care what they do. Hands to yourself, remember? It doesn't matter if the ball was being kicked to you, as long as someone on your team gets it that's all that matters. But there is no hitting in soccer," I ranted.
I watched as he went into autistic shut down mode.
Watch the video to see Giovanni in one of his YouTube videos. Post continues after the video...
His little body folded in on itself, he starred at the ground and started nervously fiddling with the grass and the dirt.
"You're out of the game for the rest of the half and you're not playing again today until you apologise properly."
I walked away, shaking and with a million thoughts running through my mind.
I had done the right thing.
I had done the wrong thing.
I had to punish him.
I should have punished him differently, autistic-ly.
I know what I am doing.
I don't know what I am doing.
He hit him. He HIT him. Deliberately. How could he?
He has impulse control issues.
I'll mention this to his Occupational Therapist. She'll know what to do.
I don't know what the f*ck I am doing.
I don't want to go to soccer training tonight. I feel terrible.
I feel terrible for Giovanni, for the boy he hit who is being forced to forgive him, for the boys parents who were comforting ME, who were so nice to Giovanni after the game. And for me, because I've realised I can no longer spend the time at soccer training happily jogging laps with my friends or walking the dog, I now have to watch my son like a hawk.
In case he strikes someone else.
I'm not cut out for this. I don't know what I am doing. I need urgent training. I need advice. I need a map. I need to read all the books I've ordered.
I clearly need a support group.
And I'd really appreciate your advice.
What would you have done in this situation?