Susan's Blog

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Scratching the Surface

Is there anything worse than worrying about your child’s safety and wellbeing? I don’t think so. Tonight I am getting Nat out of the shower, trying to shepherd Ben in, when I notice red streaks across Nat’s left shoulder, onto his chest, in the configuration of a hand. Cold claws in my stomach, twist of dread, then, “Nat! What is this?”

“Yes,” he says, which is how he answers any question. “Mommy will go away.”
“No, Nat, I want to know what is this? How did this happen?”
He can’t answer these kinds of open-ended questions. He thinks I know the answer, and says, “Yes.” And then, “Mommy go away.”
I study the welts and want to cry. He knows this. He looks alarmed. He thinks he’s in trouble. He can’t stand my histrionics. But I want to pull him to me and make those ugly marks go away. I can no more pull him to me than I can make him talk to me. It would be inappropriate, (he is naked, holding a towel) and he would not like it: he has already told me twice to leave him alone.

Where did these marks come from? Did someone do this to him, or did he do it to himself? He is not beyond self-injurious behavior. He used to bite his arm all the time; thank God he almost never does that now. So why the scratches? No incident reports in the notebook, no phone call about today.

Sometimes I wonder about his bus drivers. Would they hurt him? But then, would he go smiling into the bus if they did?

In fact, he smiles so much these days, I have to figure the most obvious: he did it to himself. Ned takes a look at it. He looks at me, and shrugs. Dry skin, maybe? I sigh, and relief starts to crackle through me, as I realize this is probably the cause. “Okay, Nat, do you want some lotion on it?”

“Yes,” he says and eagerly goes into the bathroom with me, watching, enthralled as I smeared Aquifor on his skin. I rub the gloppy ointment in, hoping to soothe whatever it is and whatever caused it, choked by my inadequacy, and all of the pent-up love I feel for this child of mine that I can never quite express to him.


It is scary how vulnerable our kids are, especially those with autism who might have limited communication skills. We have to let them out into the world but it is so scary to think of how easily they can become victimized. I am even upset by other kids teasing my son on the playground, though I know he is often in his own world and unaware of their bullying. We are left having to trust so many people in the school system and thankfully, most have our kids’ best interests at heart. I’m glad Nat is ok and sorry that you had to have that fearful experience.

— added by Sam's mom on Wednesday, April 5, 2006 at 12:15 am

Aaaaaa! You’ve made me cry. Adam is only 4 (next week) and cannot tell me these things either, and I don’t know if he ever will be able to. The worry never ends and the love we have for our children is so incredibly IMMENSE — this need to protect, but to let go. But it is all the more pronounced in this case, isn’t it?

Am I a sponge or is all this emotion, all these feelings amplified because of circumstance? I am mother of one…(stepmother to four,but it’s not the same thing)…sometimes I think all of my Adam-feelings are extra, extra large.

— added by Estee Klar-Wolfond on Wednesday, April 5, 2006 at 12:48 am

I’m sure you were quite relieved to have figured it out!

The vulnerability of our son is the worst part of autism for us. We’ve made peace in almost every other area except this. I hate a change in bus drivers. Just when I get to trust someone it seems we have to have a new one.

Wow…what an awesome smile! Those are some great looking teeth! I really need to look into some braces for my guy…metal in his mouth may not go over so well though!

— added by Cyndi on Wednesday, April 5, 2006 at 12:59 am


I think I used to have it. I remember writing and drawing on my arms and legs for the fun of it.

My ASD child seems to have it, or did, I haven’t checked lately…
What I found said that they don’t know what causes it and that it might be related to allergies.

I think I read one time that it can go away. I can’t draw on my skin now like I used to, leaving red lines.

There’s no cure and it’s apparently harmless, if ugly.

I collect medical trivia like this without trying. I thought, “dermatographia” when I read your blog… it’s a gift. (kidding)

— added by Camille on Wednesday, April 5, 2006 at 4:05 am

You know how closely I relate to your post because of what happened to Andrew at CTDS. How grightening not knowing how Nat got hurt. Hugs to you. Laurel

— added by Laurel on Monday, April 10, 2006 at 11:12 am