On Saturday, Ben went with his behavioral therapist over to her house. He played with her children, worked on his social skills, and got a haircut. Things seemed to be going well for them until, for some unknown reason, Ben bit one of her children. We don’t know why. What we do know, however, is that while she was busy consoling her daughter, Ben threw a rather heavy bowl up into the air.
Before I get into what happened next, it seems important to explain a little bit about Ben. One of the services Ben receives through the school system is called “specially-designed physical education.” Basically, Ben lacks the skills necessary to participate in a regular PE class. It’s not just that Ben lacks the social acumen to successfully participate in their games. He lacks the physical skills that would enable him to participate. To put it more simply and more precisely, his SDPE teachers have spent years trying to teach Ben to throw and catch balls, and Ben’s ball skills are still rudimentary. Getting him to throw a ball with purpose is an accomplishment. Actually hitting an intended target—that’s a skill that has eluded him.
So, it’s safe to say that when Ben threw the bowl, he wasn’t throwing it at anything. But throw it he did. He threw the bowl up, gravity did its job, and the bowl came down. Unfortunately, the bowl came down on his young friend’s head, leaving a gash right above her eye brow. Shortly afterward, I took a call from our therapist who informed us that her husband would be bringing Ben home while she took her daughter to the emergency room for stitches.
That’s not the kind of call a parent wants to receive. It’s not that we objected to her planned course of action, of course. We had no problem with her husband bringing our son home or her decision to tend to her daughter. We supported that fully. But her daughter needed stitches because of our son!
Luckily, this therapist has known Ben for a long time now. Her husband and her children know and appreciate Ben. While, under different circumstances, such an incident could result in broken friendships and the loss of a therapist, that didn’t happen.
In fact, the very next day Ben’s therapist came for him and brought him back to her house. When Ben and his young friend saw each other the next time, they gave each other a hug. I didn’t see it, but I’m sure it was very sweet.
The whole thing does, however, reveal a concern. The biting we knew about. We try to prevent it and we try to eliminate the behavior—Ben has gotten much better!—but there’s still more work to do in that quarter. At least we knew about that!
As I said, Ben isn’t really prone to throwing things. We’re certain he didn’t mean to hit his young friend. But the object lesson here isn’t likely to have sunk in either. I doubt Ben associates his action (throwing the bowl) with the consequence (it hitting his friend in the head). He might. I don’t know. Either way, the fact of that matter is that we’ve put so much effort in teaching Ben to throw that now we have to teach him when, where, and what not to throw. Here I’d thought we’d been doing that all along!