This was my daughter in the middle of a hospital in the waiting room.
What had happened…well, let me take you a few steps back…
My daughter has multiple needs, she has a hearing impairment, eye impairment, global developmental delay, as well as low tone. With this complicated myriad of differences, she can sometimes exhibit different behaviours.
Whether that be sensory seeking or behavioural challenges. I recently wrote a post about how to ‘Stop challenging behaviour’ and ironically was faced with an incident of challenging behaviour - but not with my own child.
Waiting patiently in a crowded Ophthalmology clinic my daughter and I waited to be seen at her double eye appointment.
The waiting room, overcrowded and not at all entertaining for adults kept us cornered off until we were next to be seen.
My daughter, seeing the other children also waiting, tried to interact and play with them but was ignored and so she ambled around, picking up books, tossing them aside and generally trying to find anything to amuse herself.
Overhearing the familiar intro song to Something Special, G instinctively got excited at watching Mr Tumble. However, he wasn’t on the TV in the waiting room (Which was overhead and too far for her to be able to focus on to see).
It was playing on a young boy's mobile phone. He was sitting about a meter away from me. In a distracted almost mesmerised way she headed towards where the young boy was.
She tentatively stood about half a meter away from him, trying to peer over his shoulder, realising she still couldn't see.
She shuffled a little closer to him when all of a sudden he lashed out and hit her in the face.
It happened so quick, that my shock stopped me reacting as quickly as my brain was screaming at me too. I dropped my bags ran over to her and scooped her up. She looked at me in shock her glasses half way down her face and she grabbed her face instinctively to comfort herself.
The whole room seemed to stop and be looking at what was unfolding.
Was it me or was it incredibly hot in here?
Grabbing her I bundled her back to my chair, by now the shock had set in and she started to sob. She clung to me frightened and not understanding what had just happened.
I didn't understand what had just happened.
Anger started to grow inside me.
A man, his father I presume, was sitting next to the boy and said to me across the room “Sorry he has Autism”.
I froze. I instantly understood and felt somewhat differently…But also confused.
For I understand the complexities of having a child with different behaviour and know it is not his ‘fault’. But this did not stop the fact he had just attacked my child. My petite 5 year old, innocent little girl who didn't do anything.
The little boy was at least 10 years old and heavily built.
I felt numb. I felt totally and utterly blindsided as my reaction had been impeded. My motherly instinct to protect was in full force but my wider understanding and openness to differences changed my ability to react. I sat there quietly holding on to G.
G clutched at me with tears rolling down her face. A few minutes passed and I tried to encourage G to get down and maybe go and play but she was too frightened to leave my lap.
She turned around and pointed at the boy. Then she said in her broken language “Why not say sorry?”
I was flabbergasted.
Because yes in these scenarios you would hope the child would be scolded and come and say sorry. But this was not happening. G is learning about saying sorry and so for her she was not understanding why it wasn’t happening.
I said to her “Its okay, he is sorry, he just doesn't know how to say it”.
My heart ached for her, struggling to try and comprehend what was going on. I sat there agitated for what had unfolded around me.
Later that day, having explained to her father what had happened. He became angry at what had happened. I started to defend the little boy instinctively. But he raised a valid point and one that was the key to my unease in the situation.
“Why didn’t the father get up and come and see how G was and say sorry for the little boy to see?”
He was right. The little boy may have challenging behaviour but it would have been positive for him to see his father go and see how G was. Seeing and hearing his dad do that would have modelled it for him so he might do it in the future.
At the very least would have helped my daughter come away from that situation feeling a bit more comforted, because now she will always have that unease and confusion as to why the young boy hit her.