Joshua is a very tactile, loving boy – he likes to give hugs, kisses and high 5s too and he always has done. There was one anti-epileptic drug, Tegretol, that turned Joshua into an aggressive ‘ naughty’ child; he would walk into a room and clear worktops with one sweep of an arm and create instant chaos in our home. One evening while we were eating our tea in another room, Joshua was wreaking havoc in the kitchen/snug : he had gone into the kitchen cupboard and had emptied it throwing foodstuffs all over the room. The most memorable was a bottle of strawberry milkshake syrup which was splattered up and down the walls in a sticky mess. we were shocked at how much mess could be created in just 5-10 minutes. The only solution to this behaviour was to take him for long walks to alow him to wear himself out. It was simply exhausting and was the only time in his life when my husband and I queried whether or not we could cope with him at home.
We reported this aggressive behaviour to his consultant and asked if there was a known side effect for this drug but he said that there was not and he simply suggested ‘ perhaps this is just your son’s personality now!’ which was a terrifying prospect. But I would not accept his conclusion and so I asked the question of other parents of epileptic children using an online forum, to see if anyone else had experienced anything similar. The answer came back loud and clear, thankfully, that Joshua’s side effect was not unusual! consequently we asked the consultant to suggest a replacement drug as it was not even controlling his seizures, so we had no reason to put ourselves through this torture any more.
However, It gave me an insight into what it might be like to have an aggressive, unpredictable child rather than our loving, placid one and it was an insight that generates real sympathy with parents whose children are permanently aggressive towards them rather than their home. I have a good friend, whose son went to Joshua’s first special school,and we have remained friends ever since : her son is non-verbal but is as yet undiagnosed, but they know his brain is bright but it does not connect as it should for an unknown reason. He is the same age as Joshua and borne from frustration, he is violent towards his family who have loved and cared for him for 14 years – he kicks them, hits them and bites them! It is not his fault but the fact remains that his behaviour is intolerable and it puts the whole family under extreme pressure. They say that ‘you hurt the ones you love’ and in his case, that is very true and it breaks my heart.
So every day I am grateful when Joshua grabs me around the neck for one of his bear hugsor makes my palm sting with one of his powerful high5s; he may be overly rough as he is so tall now, but none of his actions these days are borne from aggression or frustration.