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  • Writer's pictureSarah Swindell


Even typing the word gets my heart rate up a tad. To most people, when you see or hear the word tantrum, you visualize the adorable screaming three-year-old in Target flailing on the floor over not getting something they want. All parents have been there, right?

What most parents say to themselves during that time of awe as you stare at that little being you love so much, who has now turned into Lucifers child, is this won't last forever. You either wait it out as people give you the "I totally get it" look, or you give them the damn thing with a sheer look of defeat on your face. They win, and you move on with your day because you tell yourself this won't last forever.

But what do you say to yourself when it DOES last forever?

Yesterday, I was once again that same mom, eighteen-years later, with my same child having another tantrum in Target. And let me tell you, these tantrums look nothing like an adorable three-year-old. Not even close.

You can almost laugh when a toddler does it, but when your child is now 6'3" and 190 pounds, there is nothing to laugh about. You don't get any looks of "I totally get it" from other customers in the store; instead, it's a look of horror.

Dawson doesn't just cry, he roars, and it is not only frightening to hear, but it's even more frightening to watch. He twists and contorts his body while his shoulders pop in and out of socket. You can actually hear cracking in his wrists and fingers when he twists them, even over the roaring sounds. It can happen anytime and usually without warning.

It is never over something he can't have, nor is he trying to be naughty. He just does it, and we will never know why because he isn't able to tell us.

Yesterday, I once again left my shopping cart with the items I came in for, and we got out of there as quickly as we could. We got in the car and I took a moment to feel sorry for both of us before backing out. That feeling of defeat lasted all the way home.

This scene has played many times in my life and probably will play many more. But for some crazy reason, I won't give up on getting him out of the house and out of his bed that he would prefer to be in all day if he could. I continue to try and live a normal life with my son, but sometimes autism is the one who wins that fight.

Autism is forever, and it's the tantrums that always seem to be the one thing that drags me back to that reality and the most difficult part at this time in life. I can handle that Dawson can't speak, looks a little different, or will never live on his own. But watching your grown child in such a state of duress and have no idea how to help him is paralyzing at times.

To those parents of grown children that still tantrum, I see you, and I do totally get it. If I see you in Target one day, you will get a look of compassion and understanding from me, not horror. You will also most likely get a big hug and a new friend for life.

Sarah Swindell's memoir, Rounding Home, is now available here!

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