When the phone rang, it seemed as innocuous as any mid-day call from my husband. He calls rather than texts on occasion, mostly to annoy me. Today though, today he had placed our seven-year old Kate on the line. Kate’s autism makes communication tricky, at times, but when she is upset, as she was this day, it takes all of her hard-earned communication skills and garbles them with-in an unrelenting brain. She sobbed on the phone and I knew immediately what was up.
She had been scheduled for a flu shot along with her sister. My mother-in-law and my husband had decided to take the girls to the doctor, knowing full well, it would take at least two adults and a brave nurse to administer the shot to Miss Kate. Of course, it was not her first. We are a family that is grateful for the invention of vaccines and we will always protect our children using them.
Her sister, the perpetual ‘good girl’, likely sat for her turn without a word. Grace, would have been more worried about causing trouble for the nurse than the shot itself. She probably thanked the nurse and went to sit patiently for her sister to be vaccinated.
Even Grace, having done this with her sister many times before, would have been prepared for an extremely dramatic show. She knows Kate will not settle and accept any kind of needle. There are not enough toys in the world to convince Kate that something that ‘hurts’ is a good thing. Her brain doesn’t work that way. Her brain simply cannot conceive of any reason why someone, especially her mom and dad might want to hurt her.
This is particularly crushing. She can’t understand. She can’t be reasoned with. She can’t be bribed. Her autism presents as a cruel barrier to her understanding that we do this out of love for her, to protect her. Instead she feels scared, trapped, hurt and lashes out.
To say it blows, is an understatement.
I don’t want my little girl to think I want to hurt her.
Kate proved too strong that day, and after multiple attempts, many tears and a mountain of frustraton the nurse decided not to administer that shot. We’ll be trying again soon.
Sometimes, this shit is hard.
Grace and Kate's mom. (Shanell)