Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Autism, Self Injury and Aggression

"I had no patience with good and decent colleagues who told me how busy they were. Busy? Try spending an evening sitting in a closet with your back to the door trying to hold it shut while your child kicks it in."


"Sky, as he always does, showed me the way. Even on the worst of days, Sky would find something to enjoy, even if it lasted less than 30 seconds ... So I started to look for my joy."


- Gertrude "Trudy" Steuernagel

The above quotes are from an AP article on the death of Professor Gertrude "Trudy" Steuernagel, who died a week after a severe beating and whose autistic son is now charged with attempted murder. Professor Steuernagel, according to the AP and other reports, was devoted to her son and found great joy in him. But she wrote openly about the challenges of caring for an autistic child; challenges which can include serious self injury and aggression towards others, including loved ones.

It is possible that Neurodiversity ideologues Ari Ne'eman, Estee Klar and Kristina Chew have never experienced the darker side of autism realities. Ari, a person with Aspergers, does not seem very prone to aggression, judging by his media interviews and internet videos. Estee and Kristina may not have experienced these harsher autism realities in their autistic children. But for many they are real.

My son Conor brings me great joy but sometimes he injures himself. And sometimes he is aggressive to others including family members. I do not believe he intends to cause harm. At times he is just overwhelmed and grabs hair or pinches faces. These are realities that it does no good to ignore.

The QSAC Clinical Blog (Quality Services for the Autism Community) has a blog feature on the Challenge of Changing Self-Injurious Behaviors in Autism. I encourage everyone, including Ari, Estee and Kristina, to read this article by

Those of us who are parents of autistic children should discuss these issues openly .... because we love them.




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12 comments:

bullet said...

Kristina has actually blogged about this incident.

Estee Klar said...

An extremely daring statement on people you do not know.

Anonymous said...

I resent you associating autism and the murderous acts of an individual. You will make people fear my son who is the most gentle soul in the world. Autism does not make one prone to kill.

Autism Reality NB said...

To Anonymous 10:26 I did not make any such association, you did.

Christine said...

My comment is to Anonymous. If you look deeper into this article you will realize the injustice being done to people with autism. While I am very sorry this murder happened the fact remains a man with autism was put in jail. Think about it!!!! This mother obviously loved her son dearly and I would think be horrified to know her son is in jail. While I do not know if law enforcement is trained in Autism I know they should be. Does Sky know what he has done? Does he understand the consequences of his actions? Is he getting the support he needs? No, he is put in jail and more than likely does not understand why. My heart, prayers and thoughts go out to Sky. Autism is a life long disability and Sky needs treatment not jail.

Autism Reality NB said...

Ms Klar you claim that I made an extremely daring statement about people I do not know. What are you talking about?

navywifeandmom said...

Thank you for blogging about this Harold.

I saw Sky's picture of him in a bubble suit in that courtroom. What part of "not competent to stand trial" do people not understand?

My guess is he threw a tantrum the way a toddler would that ended up going too far. Sometimes my NT four and two-year-old will fight over toys and end up hitting each other over it and need to be separated. When this neurological immaturity carries over into adulthood (as it likely did with this unfortunate young man) you have a big, strong teenager with the power of a disgruntled two-year-old. NOT a pretty sight.

My daughter isn't usually aggressive but she did throw her infant brother out of his crib and gave him a skull fracture last summer and landed him in the hospital overnight. I was actually in the room when she did it; it happened so fast. I don't think she did it as an act of aggression; I think she wanted to bounce in the crib (she loves to bounce on beds) so she jumped in and tossed him out like a doll because he was in her way. Except of course he is not a doll. And unlike most five-year-olds, she did not realize just how serious what she did actually was. She has no inhibitions that normal children just naturally have.

I worry about her when she gets older. This could have been any one of us blogging autism parents, really.

SM69 said...

I don't know if this offers further insight but I have looked at the issue of SIB in a group of 60 children with autism- and I have posted the results here:

http://www.autismtrust.org.uk/page56aaa.html

In 3 case studies of chronic and very severe SIB, the issues seem to be related to pain, which itself was related to gut dysfunction. There were improvement with treatment, but not be typical ABA behaviour managment approaches- I do not beleive ABA can correct behaviour triggeresd from "Internal" medical issues. In fact it is unwethical to see behaviour only form the eye of an ABA therapist.

I am hoping to get funding for a larger study on that very topic.

SM69 said...

I don't know if this offers further insight but I have looked at the issue of SIB in a group of 60 children with autism- and I have posted the results here:

http://www.autismtrust.org.uk/page56aaa.html

In 3 case studies of chronic and very severe SIB, the issues seem to be related to pain, which itself was related to gut dysfunction. There were improvement with treatment, but not be typical ABA behaviour managment approaches- I do not beleive ABA can correct behaviour triggeresd from "Internal" medical issues. In fact it is unwethical to see behaviour only form the eye of an ABA therapist.

I am hoping to get funding for a larger study on that very topic.

Autism Reality NB said...

SM69

Thank you for your informative comment. I am a strong supporter of ABA but you have made a very good point about behavior triggered by internal medical issues.

I hope you receive the requisite funding for your study.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this truth! If you go to You Tube, and search under "autism and self injurious behavior" or "autism and seizures' you will see the reality of famlies dealing with severe autism.....a real eye opener....I wonder if the media has a clue.

caz said...

Anonymous 10.26 pm, i understand your fear of people hearing about this and associating killing with autism.
But those with autism who have aggression issues are a danger both to themselves and those who care about them. My daughter is only 9, but has the strength of a fully grown adult, is taller than average, and goes for your throat to choke you. Sometimes she will lay into me, punching and smacking me in the head or pinching me/ biting me hard on the parts of the body she can reach at the time. She will even pick up scissors and throw them, and has smashed a couple of windows in anger, all the time screaming..... In her calm moments, she is the most beautiful girl and loving in her own way.
But as navywifeand mum says 'you have a big, strong teenager with the power of a disgruntled two-year-old.'(or in my case- 9 year old). Things can sometimes go too far.....
Articles like this one are there to help us find more info and to understand more, not judge...Carers and those with aggressive autism really do need help, so these incidents of accidental murder dont end up happening to our loved ones in the future!
I'm extremely glad for you that you have a gentle son.My daughter used to be very gentle! (miss that!) But we need more people to know about this issue, so that they can find ways to help us!