The Attack

The first time it happened it pained me deeply. As it continued to occur, I felt utterly distraught, helpless, and bewildered.

You see, when my daughter with autism attacks, she seems like a different person. She’s not the sweet, loving girl we know.

To put it frankly, she’s scary.

I hate the Jekyll and Hyde comparison, because in NO way do I think my daughter has an evil side. She has a disorder which causes her to have a tough time adjusting to her environment. She doesn’t naturally have the skills to cope with her challenges and it takes extreme repetition to teach her the skills needed.

So, instead, in my mind, I compare her behavior to Te Ka from Disney’s Moana. My life is freaking Disney, so my thoughts often revolve around Disney characters.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the character, she is the antagonist who was once the compassionate island goddess, Te Fiti. After her heart was stolen by Maui, a demigod, she became Te Ka, a vicious lava monster.

Moana, the protagonist, learns she must return Te Fiti’s heart to save her people and the world from destruction.

During a battle with Te Ka, Moana realizes Te Ka is Te Fiti. Moana reveals she has the heart, then Te Ka lunges towards, Moana parts the ocean and sings these words (which get me EVERY time I hear them):

This does not define you 
This is not who you are 
You know who you are

These words demonstrate exactly how I feel about Brynn. Her Te Ka side is not who she is.

Now, I want to be clear. I don’t excuse her behavior. As a family, along with her ABA therapists, and her teachers and paras (when she was in school), work tirelessly to help her cope with feelings, frustrations and emotions. My gratitude is eternal for the skills I’ve learned from all of them.

What is ABA Therapy, you ask?

It stands for Applied Behavior Analysis. This type of therapy analyzes environmental factors to determine what variables exist around an individual that could stimulate the recurrence of aggressive behavior.

Do You Know Your ABC’s?

The therapist use ABC data to analyze behavior. In this case, ABC is an acronym for Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence.

Everyone’s behavior is affected by changes to their environment, both right before a behavior is displayed (the antecedent) and following a given behavior (the consequence).

In other words, to be able to determine why certain behavior ensues, analysts look very carefully at the relationship between changes happening before the behavior, the behavior itself, and changes taking place right after the behavior.

In everyone’s case, whether having ASD or not, behaviors appear for two primary reasons:

1. To gain access to something we want 
2. To get out of or away from something we do not want.

So, in terms of someone with autism, they often engage in aggressive behavior to gain access to things they want or things they don’t want.

It seems pretty simple when it comes down do it. Well, at least on paper.

Nothing and I repeat, NOTHING comes simply with autism.

Therefore, it’s crucial, as a parent, to be proactive in her process. After learning from her therapist, I’ve learned the importance of evaluating any underlying causes of Brynn’s behavior. By understanding her triggers of aggression, Mark and I, her therapists, and teachers choose the most effective intervention strategies.

We are a team and we’re all rooting for Brynn.

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