By Kodey Toney
What Was I Thinking?
Children with autism tend to be a little on the literal side. This is no secret, but I want to share a story this week of something that happened to us recently. I think this shows a few lessons in dealing with children on the spectrum. You shouldn’t jump to conclusions, make rash decisions, and should always investigate a little closer to understand the meaning behind some things that you hear.
I’m giving this to you third-hand, so some of this may be paraphrased a little, but you will understand the idea.
I got a call at work from my wife last week and she said, “Miss Kandace (his aid who was taking over the class for the day since Mrs. Williams was out) caught me in the hall today and said, ‘Konner said he wanted to kill me today.’”
Now, I began to feel weird inside at this point. You see, I’m head of campus safety at the Sallisaw campus of Carl Albert State College. I have had hours of training on dealing with threat assessment. I knew what this statement could mean. I was thinking, “Ok, on top of everything else that we have to deal with now I’m going to have to get therapy for Konner because he’s threatening his teachers.”
She said that she then walked down to Konner’s classroom and began to question him.
“Did you tell Miss Kandace that you were going to kill her?” she asked.
“Yes mommy,” he replied. “And I know how I’m going to do it too. I’m going to make her stop breathing.”
Wow, now I have a pre-meditated murderer on my hands. This is getting a little scary at this point. I began wondering where he came up with this. Was it television? Was it something he was watching on the computer? He really only watches Thomas and plays Minecraft, but who knows with either of those? With Youtube you never know what they could be watching. We try to limit that, but it could be that he snuck something by us.
“Why would you say that?” Jen interrogated further. She was looking for some explanation for this irrational behavior.
“The other kids were around Miss Kandace and she said, ‘You guys are killing me. You’re too close I can’t breathe.’”
At this point things really started to come together. I began to see what was going on.
Then Konner added. “It’s my turn. I want to make Miss Kandace stop breathing.”
This was one of those “wow moments” in parenting a child on the spectrum. It really made me think about what was going on in his mind. Konner wasn’t trying to intentionally hurt anyone. In fact, he was doing something we’ve been pushing him to do for years. He was trying to be like everyone else. He wanted his chance to be close to Miss Kandace like everyone else. He wanted to make her lose her breath like the other students. The killing part was just him mocking her desperation cry; “you’re killing me.”
He’s no more sadistic or malicious than any of his peers. In fact he loves every one of his teachers and aides. So much so that he wants to show his affection the same as everyone else in his class. This brings new meaning to loving someone to death.
While he gave everyone a little scare he also gave us all a lesson in understanding the way his mind works. Don’t be too eager to assume the worst without first asking questions. I am as guilty as anyone this time, but I will think twice the next time.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column. You can also find all columns archived at blogspot.com.