Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Break out the neck brace, I’ve suffered whiplash, autism style.

Autism whiplash is a phenomenon in my household where my 11 year old PDD son has a “good streak” and then it turns bad on a dime. What constitutes a “good streak?” This is when there are LESS issues than normal and/or the issues that are experienced have a QUICK resolution. I mean, really, with autism, I’ve never had an issue free day with my son. However, if it’s a soft day, with less, that’s terrific. A good streak can last a day or two, maybe a week or two! Once I got the royal treatment with nearly a month! Wow! So, this is a good thing so far, right?

Yep, and this is where the autism gives me a gut punch. We are rolling along well and BAM! It’s like getting rear-ended in a car without warning.

Case in point. My son has a great deal of difficulty setting foot in the school’s threshold to start his day. Between the anxiety and quick anger, it is an ordeal. But sometimes, school CAN go smoothly. So, recently, my son had a good streak with getting to school and he was doing pretty well staying there. This had been for a week. My husband and I also noticed that he was having really good behavior at home (more cooperative, helpful, kind). We were feeling pretty good and hopeful. So, one day my husband took my son to school. This is a big treat for my son (because usual my husband is at work and can’t take him). My son adores his father and tends to behave a lot better for him, than me. So, hubby takes our boy over to school. Things are going well and the conversation is upbeat. Dad delivers son to teacher and notices that son has an odd look on his face. Without warning, our son attacks his father in front of school staff, starts hitting, and calls his father dirty names and was viciously verbally abusive. My husband was horrified (this rarely happens to him) and removed our son from school. Bad streak ensues. Exhaustion sets in. Hope sinks.


The autism has pulled this trick on my son and our family on and off this week. Good streak and then snap, it’s broken. Usually it comes on quick and strong.

Let’s discuss. How do you fellow warriors cope with whiplash? How do you swim in the muck of a let-down?

Kim Thompson's blog, Gritty City Woman, is dedicated to bring out the grittiness in all of us!


  1. Mate, at the moment I just sink.

  2. *snort of recognition* at MM.
    Warning. What follows is personal opinion - not verified by anything except living with my 3 kids.
    Autism whiplash is often caused by too much effort expended in 'being good'. When the sheer willpower runs out, it is like falling off the wagon. One humungous binge.

    I wish I could finish a comment without having to play Mum's taxi. Piano lesson this time.

  3. OK. Back to try again.
    I've become better at seeing the whiplash coming. If anything, though, that makes the let-down harder to cope with. There's the sense of impending doom, and knowing that nothing I can do will prevent it.
    Doom always happens around week 6 of a term.
    At the end of the holidays, Dreamer is all relaxed, has energy, stress levels are down, all is good. He promises himself that the next term will be a good one - he'll keep up with his homework and assignments, and be a model student.
    For the first few weeks he manages it, then an assignment is given, and then another, and the general stresses of school take their toll, so more downtime is needed each afternoon to chill, and so, inevitably, he falls behind, gets more stressed... you know the rest.

    Around the time the first (incomplete) assignment is due, he gives up trying.

    It's all a vicious circle.

    The only answer I can see is living life at his own pace. That message from me contradicts everything he learns from school.

    I'm still working on it.

  4. That sounds just like my HFA son 3 years ago - anxiety, aggression, never knowing what would set him off; what worked for us was taking him out of public school & homeschooling. If I'd have known that simply getting him out of that environment would fix 90% of his issues, I never would have put him in public school in the first place. Just because schools have to accommodate/integrate/mainstream our kids doesn't mean they do it well, or even decently. It was well worth it to us - the services he received at school were mediocre; we didn't miss them once they were gone. I now have a 13 year old who is sweet & kind, and I wouldn't give that up for anything!

  5. Right now I'm sort of with Madmother.

    I do agree with Lisa's first comment I think that the exertion of "being good" and getting through a school day or any big event drains them. But we can rarely predict what exactly will set our boy off.

  6. Wow, warriors, that was fast. And pretty awesome!
    Excellent points.

    In our case, my son homeschooled exclusively last year, now he is part time at the public school. Homeschool was an interesting thing. Exciting really. We did well together at first and I saw amazing, magical things (like relaxation, excitement to learn, and the like). Then the wheels fell off. Not really sure why. We were using more of an "unschool" strategy too, so I thought that would work.

    My son said he hated working me and it was a struggle. I did everything I could think of. Then he said he'd be happier back in school. I honored this. And honestly, when his behavior/emotions are in check, he really does very well. And academically, he is doing far better than at home. But it's still hard.

    Sometimes, we can see the warning signs and when we do, we can head it off. To me, that's less stressful. Sometimes, it's totally whiplash out of the blue (the really bad stuff comes from this mysterious place).

    And with MM, I just sink sometimes, too. Sometimes, I suppose, that's all we can do at the moment.

    Thanks, all!

  7. This is exactly where I am today. We had three amazing weeks IN A ROW!! Then... BAM! Autism Whiplash! Six loooong weeks of dysregulation. I think we just might be coming out of it, but I don't wanna say that so I don't jinx myself!
    The truth is, this is how the cycle goes... She's up, she's down, she's all around. It's helped me to remember that this is just the ride we're on; when she's down, I try to have faith that we've been here before and we've come out of it. Often times, she comes out with a new or honed skill. I think this time around she's been working hard on gross motor skills. She can't do two things at once. If there's a gain coming, she'll regress somewhere else. Her sensory system is MASSIVELY out of whack.
    For hope, I'm picturing those toy cars we must pull back before they shoot forward. I know she always comes out of the regressions and that often provides comfort, but when we're so "in it", it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There's a light, right?!
    It goes back to that old saying, "this, too, shall pass". The thing is, that goes for the good times, too. So, we might as well enjoy the highs while they're there and ride out the lows...

  8. Wow! MM, you certainly got the conversation going! That's SO my vision for Autism Sucks! Glad you all are helping one another.

    Autism whiplash is absolutely the worst, and I don't know about you, but I always blame myself. "If only I had..." "If only I hadn't..." But that's not really true. It is magical thinking, the idea that I can actually control these outbursts. I can't. That's the bottom line.

    Thanks for being there for one another!

    Tina, chief chick in charge around here

  9. I agree with:
    Lisa---too much effort accommodating EVERYONE, and my son had similar assignment cycle.
    Bobbie42---exactly! Removing situations that cause too much depression, anger, anxiety and violence IS GOOD. We got a lot of advice to force him to do it, and he'll learn. BAH! Home schooling gives him so much peace. He has other friends in our group, sees enough of them, and finishes a day of school in about 3 hours! Granted, some days that 3 hours drags out in increments of 15 minutes all day....
    My addition: medication. A cocktail of a bit of buspar, and prozac does the trick for him... Buspar is sooo nice. Like he's who he used to be before puberty.

  10. Tami, we are doing Buspar as well. We aren't seeing anything with it. Does it take awhile to take?

  11. We had our first visit to a psychiatrist to discuss meds yesterday. My bird is only five and I've been hesitant to medicate, but I'll do anything if it will help her... and me!!

  12. Whiplash - such an apt term. After the massive *fail* of last week we are now in the *enchanting child* mode once more. Nobody told us it was going to be so damn hard, did they? I love both my kids but by hell I am envious of some of the battles other mums face. They seem so insignificant to me.
    And yet they would probably appear insurmoutable to them...


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