« Outgrowing His Words | Main | Letting Go and Letting Be »

12 January 2010


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference It's the End of the World as We Know It:


Judy T

As I read about Charlie head banging more intensely with the helmet, it occurred to me that the helmet blunted the "input" of his head banging, so maybe he HAD to bang harder for the same effect. Then it becomes more dangerous to get rid of the helmet because if he hits his head that hard without the helmet, the danger and pain to himself is that much greater.

Also, it's so true about the percentages of the time that are "good" or "bad." The thing is, that's true regardless of the neurology of your child - there are good times and bad times. NT kids throw tantrums, get defiant, lie, etc. Their parents don't spend 98% of the time talking about that stuff because the manifestations are all so familiar to everyone. It's just the "peculiarity" of our kids' "stuff" that seems to make it so noteworthy. When an NT teenager gets high/stoned, the parent might be angry or upset, but it's not the focus of their lives for the next year (unless there's an addiction issue). Maybe they laugh it off (with their peers, not with the child), remembering their own youth. I think it's the unfamiliarity that makes the ASD "stuff" seem so much more compelling.


The permanent bruise/callus does go away. Ours was there from age 1.5 to nearly 8... but it's gone now.

But the headbanging has to stop first. B/c it's there it no longer hurts to hit with his head, therefore decreasing the dopamine, therefore increasing meltdowns looking for the "drug".

A nasty cycle and one I'm glad we've 99% - b/c he did do it on Sun for the first time in 6 or more mths but we shut it down quick with consequences (no DS for a week) - I won't allow it... it's not "communication".. it's behaviour. And it can kill the person doing it.

Kristina Chew

In our case, there is a lot of communicating going on with all described in this post. Of course, 'allowing' such behaviors does not happen among us. I am not in the position to contradict a doctor!

Evan Tasch

REM and a Charlie post all in one...does it get any better??? Shocking that one particular commenter can't take subtle and not so subtle hints....hmmmm.


Hey Kristina, please know that I have always appreciated the honesty that you bring to your writing, especially your role modeling how to do so with grace and without spiraling into self-pity.

Has the possibility of migraines been explored? We've previously discussed the similarities between Charlie's "episodes" and Jennyalice's Jake's episodes. I know that Jake's mom treats him for migraines, and that the treatment really seems to help:


"In the past: Pain from unknown source for 9-11 days every 5-6 weeks “episodes” resulting in near loss of sleep, severe agitation, self-injurious behavior and complete non-compliance. Jake also suffered from panic attacks, which could blow up into major tantrum/agitation.

"Current: Pain has been partially attributed to migraines. Episodes continue to come every 5-6 weeks; duration has been decreased to 5-6 days. Severity seems to have diminished slightly. Reduction in symptoms can be attributed to better use of psychotropic drugs (Zoloft, Valium), better communication between home and school (to identify early symptoms) and use of Maxalt, an anti-migraine drug. Panic attacks have decreased dramatically.

"Jake still has severe agitation during episodes."

(from http://jennyalice.blogspot.com/2009/07/notes-about-jake.html.)

Also, Amanda Baggs recently discussed being in a state of constant migraine pain:

"I don’t just get a migraine every now and then. I have a migraine from about five minutes after I wake up until I go to bed. If you are not acquainted with migraines, be aware that they are not just headaches. They are an entire set of neurological things that cluster together, for reasons that are not totally understood. They are also not, as once believed, psychosomatic. They are more like epilepsy than like a stress-related headache. (They can, like many things, respond to stress, but that’s not all there is to them by a long shot.)

"At any rate, they can create nasty headaches (and some of the most severe pain there is), visual disturbances (blind spots, seeing flashing lights, etc), fuzzy-headedness, difficulty with speech or language, nausea, vomiting, extreme sensitivity to light, noise, and scent, stuffy nose, upset stomach, muscle weakness, and difficulty moving. They are the sort of thing that very few people who have them don’t want to cure. They’re unpleasant enough generally that even without the headache part, they’re not that much better than with the headache.

"And the marker of “severe migraines” is having more than six a month. I’d imagine thirty a month qualifies."

(from http://ballastexistenz.autistics.org/?p=218)

If you've already covered this possibility, feel free to honestly, gracefully roll your eyes.


Ack, the URLs above got tweaked; you'll need to either remove the punctuation at their ends or use these clean links:



Kristina Chew

@Shannon, migraines and headaches have been brought up but not fully explore---_thank you_--- the first time we saw Charlie hit his head on the floor was in St. Paul when he was around 2. We walked into an Office Max and he was on his hands and knees---the fluorescent lights? It didn't happen again for a long time.

No eye rolling ever about anything you write! Always love reading about Leo's adventures, and his sisters'.

@Judy T, what you say about the helmet and it leading Charlie to bang his head harder, and this making it even more difficult to get rid of the helmet---this is just what I think.

I do at times wonder what my (college) students' parents say about their kids' "behaviors" (I know some things the Dean of Students has said.)

@Evan, more REM + Charlie to come. I'm downloading some more songs now!


My migraines are very related to hormone levels. They were worst in puberty and became more managable with time. Some foods made them worse, caffeine takes the edge off. Any pulsing light will trigger them.

My daughter is PDD-NOS. She is having fewer outbursts, except for premenstral syndrome. She is also very tall, and looks much older than 13.


Having taught adolescents with autism and spent weekends taking care of my students at the school to give my students' parents a well-deserved rest, I've had experience with head banging and other SIBs.
I noticed that the kids who head banged were, without exception, the kids who were described as having moderate to severe autism. They generally had very little language, either verbal or using sign language. The verbal kids, even the ones who could be quite a handful, behavior-wise, never head banged.
I surmised that head banging was a form of communication to express frustration and anger. The kids who head banged never did so because they were happy.
It also seemed to be, like much else for my students, compulsive. The more distress that was exhibited over the head banging the more frequently the head banging occurred.
For a group who in early years were said to be almost oblivious to the reactions and emotions of others my autistic students had a tremendous knack for gaging a room's emotional weather and responding in kind. That's not to say you should ignore it and it will go away, but I think you're spot on when you talk about deliberately cultivating a peaceful easy feeling around Charlie.
I know from experience the feeling of walking on eggshells around a large, emotionally volatile teenager. I'm sure it must be rough for you not being able to completely relax in your own home or to worry about inviting friends over because they might bring a baby (who might cry) or they might talk too loud and annoy Charlie.
But it's obvious from your posts how much you love Charlie and how proud you are of him. I used to really enjoy being with my students. One of the best things about them was that they were genuine; they didn't feel the need to act cool or worldly like neurotypical kids their age do. They didn't feel embarrassed to hold hands when they crossed the street or to show their enthusiasm for something that they liked a lot. They were, almost invariably, kind to each other, and kindness is a rare and precious quality.
So yes, I get it why you're not moaning and wringing your hangs about living in an "autism nightmare."
I hope you keep on blogging honestly about your life with Charlie. I can't wait to read your book.


That migraine suggestion sounds plausible. They come on with triggers, they're so awful...as you likely know...and the sensory overload with migraines can really truly make even a non-autistic want to bang their heads, except for the pain. It's possible to have the aura/overload without the head pain, too. Interesting idea.

I have an idea--only a vague one, of course--of what those paroxysms of SIB must be like, and it sounds tough. But what sounds harder to me is the early waking, the lack of surety that you're going to have a decent night's sleep. I know nobody likes to be called a "hero" or anything, but I do admire your ability to just roll with those wee-hour awakenings. You seem to have a great attitude about it. I think it would wear me down to nothing but a cranky nub after awhile. I hope that you have some respite or tradeoffs so that you do get your rest. Even a dynamo needs her sleep. :-)


Kristina, I have such great respect for the three of you!! And, well, your blog has been important to me. Thanks for writing -- even about the difficult stuff -- and despite comments you can live without!


What a great post. This is what I call a balanced, honest and intelligent view of living with an autistic child.

The head banging is always puzzling because it can be a response to different feelings and situations. It could be anger or even self-stimulation. My son doesn't do head-banging, but a few times after bumping his head accidentally (on a wall, or my head, for instance) he went back and did it again on purpose, as if he wanted to have that sensory experience again.


I was thinking about some of this today- the good and bad in our life with autism and somehow feeling disloyal to remember too much of the bad. That's not all there is to Henry or Charlie, or any child. We can't deny the bad, but don't need to dwell on it either.


I've always liked that I can count on your blog for a balance of the good and the bad. It is similar to how I perceive our family life--so many wonderful, sweet moments with the boys, and at the same time, the struggles with early, early waking, ongoing toileting issues and trying to keep the boys from mouthing or eating leaves, sticks, mulch, etc. To an outsider, it might sound like a hard life, but it really has so much joy.


I'm a longtime reader and I don't think I've commented before. I really admire your grace, dignity and honesty in blogging about Charlie. I've learned a lot about have a good perspective from you. Thanks, Eithne


One thing that makes this title so perfect is that the REM video for this song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bmxyj6iInMc) features boy just Charlie's age - on the cusp of puberty. He's dancing to the music only he can here, throwing stuff around, just loving being alive. Of course, he's also got a close relationship with a dog, which Charlie doesn't enjoy at this time.

But the song becomes a metaphor for adolescence very baldly when filmed this way - and thus totally apropos of what your TTT is going through.
Thanks for reminding us of the band's poetic artistry.

Sane Parent

Vitamin C stopped my son from banging his head six years ago. He has never banged his head since.


Sane Parent: Go away. Did you not read the blog post?

I fully trust that Kristina and Jim are handling this well, as they do all things related to Charlie. They are excellent parents.

Bonnie Sayers (autismfamily)

Matt was headbanging at 18 months old in his crib, before either his or Nick's autism dx.

Matt has not done this for a long time, but we have those holes in the walls from his hands. He will not tolerate hand lotion and the palms of his hands are blistered.

I agree with the info on migraines, never had one myself, but an ex boy friends Mom and sister did, could not talk to them and the apt was always dark when they had them.

I am not looking forward to a three day weekend with rain in our forecast.


It's funny that you write about this just now. We are currently in the transition process for one of my students (who will be at middle school next year) -- and no one wants to talk about the average 30.5 hours per week that he's a fun, gregarious, funny, loving, compassionate, silly young man whose passions is life are Spongebob and his classmates' birthdays. Their only concern is the 15 to 30 minutes per week that he is less able to control his impulses -- roughly 2% of his week.

It makes me sad for him, and even sadder for his parents, who are not being treated exceptionally well by the rest of his IEP team. And, although I have told his mom repeatedly that I adore the boy, 2% and all, and that I'd take him for 3 more years if I could, my voice is being drowned out. :-(

On a happier note, I'm so glad that the use of the helmet is being faded out, and that things seem to be going well so far at his new school. Congrats to Charlie. :-)


Migraines are a great suggestion to explore. I get them both with and without headache, and the sort without are just bizzare. If I had less language, less ability to search out what was happening to me, they would be terrifying--and even as an adult on the mild end of the spectrum with pretty fantastic verbal skills, they still do sometimes make me want to SI (biting is my variant of choice). I have a migraine 4-5 days a week right now and am trying to get them controlled, but until then they make me lash out at others and myself. My condolences to Charlie if this turns out to be what he's having!

My condolences to you, Kristina, for having such persistent trolls who insist you are "allowing" behaviours.


Re migraines, I heard this story on NPR recently:

"A study of blind people has revealed how bright light can intensify the pain of a migraine headache.

The study, published in Nature Neuroscience, found a pathway between light-sensitive cells in the retina and an area in the brain that's involved in migraine pain. The retinal cells don't contribute to vision, so they are still functioning in the eyes of many blind people whose other retinal cells no longer work.

The finding could help scientists explain why some migraine sufferers are also sensitive to certain smells and sounds..."

Kristina Chew

@Samantha, _thank you_ for noting that study! Harsh, direct electric light has not been Charlie's friend, more often than not.


"fading the helmet"

Music to my ears! Hooray!

Thank you for being real. I've learned so much from you, and when I feel like we're the only family with severe behavior, I can remember that there's someone else who talks about it, and we're not alone.

Kristina Chew

I don't know that I'll ever figure the 'best' or 'right' way to write about severe behavior but feeling that we're not alone -- that makes the hugest difference. Always grateful to hear from you!


Amazing story adn very true!!!I just finished reading about a boy who was cured from autism through Shaman's and Horses in mongolia. Please read Horse Boy. Visit the webpage www.horseboymovie.com His dad has started a foundation in texas also that provides this treatment.

Kristina Chew

Thank you very much! I've read and discussed The Horse Boy here:





We all deal with stress and fear in different ways. Sometimes the ways we deal with it can healthy or not so healthy.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

by Kristina Chew …………………………

Kristina Chew

Essays, Articles, Chapters


my flickr

  • www.flickr.com
    autismvox's items Go to autismvox's photostream


  • I'm Going to BlogHer '14!
  • mumsnet
  • Wikio - Top Blogs - Autism
  • Care2 Blogger
  • I'm Speaking at BlogHer '12
  • Babble 2011 Top 25 Autism Spectrum Blogs

Become a Fan

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported