After Katie broke the wooden office supply organizer, she pretty much lost it, throwing pieces of wood and handfuls of office supplies. Caroline handed Katie a garbage bag and instructed her to clean up the mess.
I could tell that was unlikely to happen. Katie’s hearing pretty much shuts down in a meltdown. To my surprise, Katie sat down and put one thing in the bag, then threw something at Caroline.
Next she put her bare foot on one of maybe ten tacks scattered along with the other office supplies. Katie kicked her foot and the tack flew off. She screamed and began smearing her blood on the tile. I sighed. This was going from bad to worse.
Caroline shook her head. “Those tacks are hazardous. They could get thrown. Plus I’m not supposed to be near blood.”
I looked at her, incredulous. She was worried about being hurt by a thumb tack with my crazed child in full meltdown in the room?
She pointed at the office supplies. “These need to be picked up. By Katie.”
In typical fashion, I stepped into the fray while Caroline retreated to the other room. Katie, who had been momentarily distracted by her bloody foot, was once again kicking at me and throwing office supplies. I sighed and handed her the garbage bag. “Come on, you know the drill. Clean up your mess.”
But Katie was in no mood to pick up. After I got hit and kicked a few times, I retreated to where Caroline was and asked for her elbow-length gloves. I needed to stop this situation before things got any worse. Caroline gave them to me, then went out the back door. Apparently being in the next room was not enough protection without the gloves.
I rolled the gloves up my arms and prepared for battle. It was time for the dreaded “hand over hand.”
Back in preschool, Katie fought hand over hand. This is a standard technique used with autistic children who have tactile defensiveness. Katie hated it then and she hates it now. So much so, that usually all it takes is for me to tell her that I’m counting to three and then it’s hand over hand. She will glare at me and comply. I hoped it would work once again.
It did. Sort of. Katie glared at me and refused to comply so I put my hands over hers and picked up some broken wood, placing it in the bag. She screamed like I was killing her and rolled around on the floor.
I made her pick up another piece and she screamed, “I do. I do it!”
I let her go and she slowly picked up two paper clips, tossing them in the bag. Then she grabbed a piece of splintered wood and hit me. We did another round of hand over hand. More screaming. She picked up a bit more then kicked me. I went to grab her hands and she hit me in the face, knocking off my glasses. I put them back on and forced her to clean up two crayons. More screaming. I let her go and she tore a large covered button off my sweater. More hand over hand.
I pulled her headphones off to keep her hands over her ears instead of attacking me. That helped, but it was still a struggle.
It wasn’t pretty, but we eventually got the office supplies cleaned up. Then I had her sit in her chill out zone. Katie cried while Caroline and I swept up the glass.
I cleaned up Katie’s foot and got her a band-aid. When Katie was once again calm, Caroline left for lunch.
Caroline was gone for 1.5 hours. She gets a 45-minute lunch and usually takes an hour, but this was tardy even by her standards. Katie and I hung out and enjoyed the unexpected calm. Finally Caroline showed up at the door and apologized. She had a last minute meeting at the district office.
“Wow,” I said, feeling guilty about my phone call to the Special Ed Director. “Do you know what it’s about?”
“No,” she said. “Not a clue.”
Except she did.
To be continued…
Until next time,