April 9, 2014

The Pain of Childhood

I wore long sleeves today, despite the 80 degree weather. Didn't want anyone at work asking about the fresh scratches on my arm. I mean, they know, but sometimes it's easier not having to explain. The scratches sting a bit under the light fabric of my blouse. At home now, I hold a cool glass of wine against my skin.

Moe is going through another round of aggression. But it's worse this time; he's not just hurting me and Jeff. He's hurting himself too. His forearm is bruised from where he hits it agains the edge of the table. He's been hitting his forehead as well, on the couch, the rug, and—scarier still—against the sliding glass door or the bathroom counter. So far, we've kept him from truly hurting himself.

He goes from aggressive, to sweet and wanting hugs, to insisting on some pretty hard pressure on his head, back to aggressive when I'm not doing it just right. I know he's just frustrated, but it's hard not to take it personally. I'm only human too.

This has been going for on a while now, maybe a month. Jeff took Moe to urgent care a couple weeks ago. There was no ear infection, no strep throat, no other obvious issues. They didn't exactly dismiss us, but did suggest that we work with the doctor who "treats him for his autism." I'm not really sure who that is. But we know this is more than just behavioral. More than just autism.

We worried about headaches. I started to wonder if maybe we needed to get an MRI. Perhaps some tumor (maybe one that has been causing all his delays?) was causing some pain. This is the screwed up life I lead, almost hoping that he would have a tumor, then quickly banishing the thought, guilty for it even crossing my mind. But it would be an explanation as to why all of this is happening to Moe. That's the bargaining stage of grief, I'm told.

We got an answer on Monday, at least we think we did. We took Moe to the dentist guessing that perhaps he had a cavity. It seems he is getting new teeth. I forgot about those "six year molars." It makes sense, the pain that comes and goes, his asking for pressure on his head or near his ears. It helps, knowing the reason why, that this too shall pass. And yet, I feel resentful that something so simple, such a part of normal childhood development, could cause so much havoc on the entire family.

And Moe, poor Moe. The only way to tell us he is hurting is by hurting himself more. I tell him I want to help him. But I don't know how.

It was the best possible outcome: an answer that points to something concrete, but not serious. Still, we are all wrecked, rung out, exhausted. And bracing ourselves for at least several more days or weeks until this tooth is in.

I can't even imagine what is going to happen when he starts losing his baby teeth. It won't be long. Moe turns seven next month.


  1. We just took our son to the dentist the other day and his six year molars are coming in. Dread filled my heart when the dentist told me. I was flooded with anxiety over how to manage the discomfort as they try erupting to the surface. Fortunately, we have not had trouble with losing teeth. I was terrified our son would have a tough time coping with no tooth being where one used to be, and having no idea how long it would take for a new one to come in. He's been a trooper and he loves the idea of the tooth fairy and that losing a tooth is a fun, positive thing. Hoping these dental things don't make for tricky transitions for you all!

  2. I come to work all the time with scratches on my face. Most people just assume I have a cat. When I try to be funny and tell them my husband was nt happy with dinner, I get nervous laughter. Cut those nails as short as possible. Get a good concealer, put Advil in his juice. Good luck!

  3. Poor Moe, cutting teeth is the worst pain of all I think cuz it involves so many of the areas that are very very sensitive: head, ears, jaw, teeth, gums ... Wow, Wish I had something concrete to offer you in the way of help. Anon's idea of Advil helping him with his pain intrigues me; will he take medicine if he knows it to be helpful? Does he remember whether or not something like pain meds helped him in the past? If I am being too nosy, please politely tell me and I will take my questions to a broader audience so that no one feels put on the spot. I have read about Moe for three or four years now and I have much respect for you and how you deal with the myriad issues involved with a child who has a disability. Muscular dystrophy hit my dad's generation twice and many aspects of the experience are quite different now than in the forties and fifties when Grandma had her children. Moving to CA from FL showed me a new way of helping families too with the Lanterman Act and the development of the Regional Centers across the State.

  4. I am writing to let you know I am too on the same path. My son punched his own face, sometimes over 80 times in an hour. Sadly I have data to prove it. I thought either getting his cavities fixed or using Naltrexone worked, but now I am not sure why it stopped. It just did. That was Dec. By March it was back. He punches his chin, sometimes his head. Now it's April. Chin hitting has gone away, but in reflection during the times of no SIB he became harder in other ways. Ways that didn't feel as significant after the year + of hell. He started throwing hard toys against our wooden floor, aggressively sticking his fingers in our eyes (well, anyones), spitting food out and re-eating it. I was accepting all of this because again...anything seems better than SIB. But, it's back. Now he slaps his forehead. It's not as scary, but it is. I used to blog, but now I write him on FB. I try to stay in the positive. That is hard sometimes. He is only 6. I am rambling to make you (and me) feel less alone on this journey. I have no answers, but you are not alone. You can follow my story if you type "Dear Grant" on FB. I'll keep reading. Maybe one of us will find an answer.

  5. Try http://chewytubes.com/products/chewy-tubes/ - they might help.

    Our boy is 13 and still bites his hands and head slaps a bit but it used to be really bad - seeking out a corner wall to head butt springs to mind. Frustration was a big part of it and sign language was a big bridge in developing communication and lessening that. Picture stories on Boardmaker or Widgit can help as well.

    Even if you make up your own sign for "sore" and every time you or anyone else hurts themselves, use it and point at whatever is sore. With a fair wind it'll take a hold at some point - still not been able to work out headaches, though!


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