Who would have thought that my special needs child, my boy, who is only eight years old, enrolled in a Montessori school and has Autism Spectrum Disorder, would be protective of me? When he was diagnosed at the age of 5, the neurodevelopmental pediatrician told me that he would have trouble relating to me, to his sisters, and other people. His therapists said to us that he will be withdrawn, and would isolate himself at times. But he wasn’t like that at all. He is very loving and very much caring of me, his siblings, and everyone around him.
I said he is protective of me because he is, and we have all seen that with him. We have problems at home, his father and me. You could say that I am a wife who takes all the bullshit, the screams, and the hits for many years. Yes, I am that woman – I was that woman, and now I am done. I am not going to be a battered wife anymore. This is for myself and my children. Whatever happens to me will affect them, and if I continue to let them witness what their dad has comfortably bestowed upon me, it will be the end of my kids. They will all suffer mental health issues, I know for sure, and I don’t want it for them.
We’ve were married for 20 years, and for nine months now, we’ve been living apart. I was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety – most of which was because of the trauma I had suffered by being with him. I am not blaming myself, but I let him use and abuse me. In a way, it was a shortcoming of mine, but it’s okay now. You can say that I have awakened from this terrible nightmare of a life, and I am moving on.
Being so attuned to sights, sounds, and other sensory events has its advantages, in that it encourages mindfulness. — Rachel Oppenheimer, PsyD
Going back to my boy with ASD, I saw how protective he was of me. His father visits them, and when that happens, my anxiety attacks will trigger. I would tremble in fear that he would hurt me and such, but I tried my best not to let the kids see this. The problem is that my boy with ASD, the one who was supposed to be not “relating” to people because of his disorder, have seen this no matter how hard I tried to conceal it.
Every time his dad would come, he would push me inside my room and say:
“Mom, dad is here. I want you to stay in your room. Don’t go out until he leaves.”
I replied to him, “It’s okay, babe. I’ll be fine.” (We call him “babe” as a nickname.)
“No, mom,” he insisted. “Dad is here, and he will shout at you. I don’t want that. You stay in this room. Don’t go out, mom. I mean it. I will lock this door right now. I will come back to open this when he is gone.”
And he locked my door. A few minutes passed, he also opened it and told me that his dad already left and that I can go out.
This is my child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and I thought, we all thought that he wouldn’t be anything. We all thought that his disorder would leave him blank. On the contrary, he wasn’t blank at all. He was the opposite of it. My boy with ASD was like any regular boy without the disorder. He was his mom’s protector and in a way that made me proud but worried.
I was worried because what if this isn’t normal behavior? Is it common for an 8-year-old boy with ASD to be protective of his mom? In my mind, he must have been very affected by our domestic problems. This must have pushed him to act this way, and what are the consequences of it? How can I help him? What if he has other mental health issues because of me and his dad?
The key to helping children thrive is to make sure they feel safe and secure with the adults around them. — Mona Delahooke, Ph.D.
My worry pushed me to seek advice from another therapist, a child specialist. I brought my son to her and had him evaluated, in case he has other disorders that need to be dealt with immediately. After a couple of hours, the therapist called me and said that there is no need to worry that much. My son is a high-functioning boy with ASD. He is brilliant and intelligent, and his protective nature is typical. The therapist told me that he has some temper issues (my fear – just like his dad) and that with early intervention, together with his regular OT sessions, it will be addressed. The therapist also told me that I might need to go with him during therapy and get the help that I also need.
I told his sisters about it, and they agreed that we both have to do it. They even want to join in and make it a family therapy meeting. I called the therapist, and she said, it would be the best move to make as a family as we will heal together from this tragic event.
Considering the upstream swim they endure, their courage, sense of humor, and connection with others in the group helps keep their heads above water when they feel like giving up. — Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC
My love for my son and all of my children are more than enough push for me to make myself better. I am standing up now, because my 8-year-old boy, who is special, is standing up for me. If I can’t see that, then, I would be forever lost.