Posted by: myautisticmuslimchild | February 9, 2011

Is this Bad Behavior or is the Child Just Sick?

Often I ask myself , does my son have any discomfort, is he sick, or he is just simply misbehaving. A non-verbal autistic child, or a child who can not express himself adequately can give you a difficult time to decode their behavioral issues.

Understanding the root causes of behavioral problems are critical. We can not just simply say he is spoiled, neglected, bad parenting, or having a learning disability. Finding excuses will not solve any problems, instead it will create even more. It is crucial to acknowledge these issues if they exist, and to try to find solutions for them.

Also we should analyze what type of behavior they exhibit, how often this occurs, and how long will it last.

Furthermore, try to see if you can find the trigger for these behavioral problems.

The first and foremost task is to eliminate physical illness. Check their temperature, their ears if the child has frequent ear infections, and also their throat. I usually check my son head to toe ,to make sure he didn’t injure himself and that he isn’t having pain caused by that injury. Once you’ve cleared them from the most obvious causes, try to look for clues for why is he exhibiting these behaviors.

These behaviors can be anything from aggression toward others, or to themselves, excessive head banging, scratching, biting, body-slamming, screaming, crying, destruction of property, complete non-compliance, and/or excessive crying.

My son had been crying so much , so long and so loud that It scared me. The first few days when Amin started to scream and cry uncontrollably, I was terrified that something was really wrong with him, especially since he had that very serious episode just a few weeks ago. I checked his O2sat, listen to his lungs with my stethoscope, and I monitored him probably more intensely than they would in ICU. (No offense to the hospital, they did a good job, just a figure of speech).

It was a breaking point for me, when I watched him him like a hawk, and I discovered that he is kicking and screaming until he is blue, but I never see a drop of tears. I was shocked to realized that my son is having a real temper tantrum. He never really had it before, or if he had something similar it was a very short lived one.

In this past month I found every excuse for my son to validate his behavior. He was very sick, required CPR, he has high fever, he is scared being alone after that experience, he is not sleeping for over a week, and the list can go on and on. I was completely oblivious about those little signs that he might just be misbehaving, and testing how far he can push me.( he did trick me all along, and got away with a lot)

It was quite an eyeopener when I came to this realization. After my “mommy awakening”, I was looking for clues to validate my theory. I was right after all, when I realized that the triggering issues were that he just didn’t want to work at school, or at home with me. He was a bit tired, and didn’t want to do his therapy.

The other night after a 30 minute intense crying and carrying on episode, I discovered I was late almost an hour to give him dinner. Amin is very set on his schedule, especially his meals, and sleep, therefore  when any changes occur he has a hard time to  adjust to it. (what cruelty he has to endure…sorry Amin)

Also, before, during and after his illnesses he is more sensitive to different sensory input. He gets very easily overwhelmed, annoyed, and he has not yet developed adequate coping skills to deal with certain issues.

So, lets get back to the question… IS IT A BEHAVIORAL PROBLEM, OR AN ILLNESS?

There is not a template that can be applied to all children. They are all unique in their own wonderful way, and an approach has to be different to solve problems with them. Once you eliminate the most obvious indicators for illness, or sensory issues, you can assume that it might be just a behavioral problem. If you are not sure, there is always an option to call the doctor and get an appointment with him to check the child.

Two weeks ago when Amin stopped sleeping and cried all night, pulling his ears – that is what I did, but I knew that he has ear infection. He was diagnosed with an ear-infection, and after being on the antibiotic for 10 days he is slowly starting go back where he was before, except he just doesn’t want to work with his therapist, or his teacher.

The teacher, and the therapist are worried that there might be other medical issues that arose with him, but all the indicators point to my suspicion that he needs to relearn to transition back to his schedule. It might take some time, but he is on the road to recovery, I just have to be patient with him.

What I learned from this experience is that I need to relax and acknowledge that these kids are very clever, and they can play you like a violin.


  1. This looked like a good article but was to hard to full read due to the Bold font.

  2. salamunalaikum.

    shukran for sharing and caring for muslim families using blog services.

    May Allah bless your efforts and make all of our life affairs easy.Ameen!

    • Thank you for your kind comment. inshaallah I can gather these Muslims families so we can exchange ideas and support one another.

  3. It’s so difficult to gauge these things and to be honest I don’t have any experience of what special needs children are like… but having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if BOTH behaviour and his health are the issue. Behaviour because he sensed that he can get away with being more disruptive these days but also possibly his health in that the health problems from a few weeks ago have meant he’s not necessarily recovered to his pre illness energy levels and that has caused him to have more of a short fuse even though in other ways he has recovered.

    I wanted to laugh when you said he had a tantrum cos’ his food was late- when i was little, I would have a tantrum if my food was ten minutes later than expected, let alone an hour lol (I laugh but I’m sure my mum didn’t find it funny!).

    The only thing that i can think to suggest is that you should still go back to setting the boundaries and schedule he had before his illness, but try to bring him back to that level of discipline gradually, so that he still has some leeway to get a break from things that he’d rather not do (in case he still hasn’t fully recovered his energy or attention span), but obviously shouldn’t be so unrestricted that he feels he can get away with anything. In other words, take a little step backwards so that he doesn’t feel he’s overwhelmed with too much to do at once, then every couple of weeks try and take some steps forward.

    As I said before, I don’t have experience of working with autistic kids, but I’m just thinking along the lines of how things were when I was growing up- so this is all just a hunch. Does he have a tendency to take longer to recover from these illnesses than say a neurotypical child would take? If so that could explain a few things too. Inshallah it may take some time but some progress can still be made. Hope things work out and get better inshallah.


    • I am taking it slowly to get him back to the same schedule. He is recovering Ok, but I guess considering the circumstance it was a major event for him so it takes some time. Either way he is almost back to where he started, and behaving better at school now we are working on therapy. they still baby him so he is taking advantage of his therapies. they are just too smart. Thank you for your advice.

  4. Salam Alekum sister

    You nailed it. Change in ROUTINES is the biggest precursor to strange new behaviors, and tantrums etc. But we can go deeper than that – anxiety around change comes from a need to control – so really as I have discovered in my child, Control is a big driving force in his life. He is learning to talk so now adays it is all about controlling what I say to him – and you are right, they are quite clever. However it also requires a huge amount of empathy for me to get through things with him. I have to keep telling myself he only wants to control everything because everything is so hard for him. This gives me patience and a sense of calm and that relaxed attitude you are talking about so I can plan, preempt and not let him play me like a violin…or in the case where the behav or tantrum has already started, it gives me the patience to give him the right reactions (i.e. ignore him or reinforce or whatever) – most of the time anyway because its tough to always have your thinking cap on…

    Good luck sister, May Allah make it easy for you and your son and give your family and him to fight this disorder, because it really is like fighting a war.

    • thank you for your kind comment. we will fight till the end, and when we look back there will be no regrets and lots of smiles and satisfaction God willing

  5. I read it cover to cover in only a couple sittings (of course, I am hyperlexic…). I was very happy that this book of literature reviews by professionals contained the view of someone on the autistic spectrum (Wendy Lawson), and was immediately able to connect to a lot of what she experienced, since I had similar experiences in my schooling (no accomodations, lots of bullying, and never realizing what was going to happen next or how the other students knew what they were suppossed to do so automatically).

    There were several things I was delighted to see, such as the idea several authors had that Asperger’s should be removed from the DSM-V (expected publishing date in 2011), and simply be considered autism without major language delay or mental retardation. This has several points of validity – quite frankly, the outcomes for HFA adults and Asperger adults are quite similar, it is frequently impossible to distinguish between the two as adolescents or adults without extensive testing to determine learning style (visual/math/auditory/language being the most common, in approximately that order). No other psychiatric “disorder” in the DSM-IV is separated out by learning style or by the presence or absence of mental retardation, in fact, as one set of reviewers pointed out, the validity of most diagnostic characteristics listed in the DSM-IV rests on the fact that they are valid for people of all levels of intelligence. There is no reason why autism should be the one “disorder” that an exception is made for.

    The good thing is that HFA/Asperger and PDD-NOS children are more likely to receive the services they need with a diagnosis of autism. The only possiblity I can see as bad is that fewer children may be diagnosed, due to the simple fact that psychiatrists hate to break the “bad” news to parents. What this requires is the publicization of the fact that many of us are extremely high functioning, articulate, and have special gifts to go along with our inability in socialization and our “odd” looking behavior.

    I was diagnosed Asperger’s as an adult, but like many Aspies, I technically meet the criteria to be HFA even under the DSM-IV. I have peculiarities in language (pragmatic disorder). The DSM-IV gives very generous recommendations for use of language, with single word use at 2 and communicative phrases at three (how many parents reading this saw both used much younger if you have neurotypical children – I’m guessing most). I used single words at 3 1/3, and communicative phrases at 4 1/2, but I was reading single words at 2 and pointing to the correct one to get what I wanted on a regular basis, and spelling them out with alphabet blocks when I was 2 1/2. (I had a smart father who worked on alternative communication with me.) Dad (also an aspie) was also smart in another way – he got me into kindergarten by claiming I was “shy” and wouldn’t speak to any strangers. I didn’t speak to my kindergarten teacher (other than phrases such as, “May I please go to the bathroom”) until over halfway through the year, and even then it was to have my desire for solitude or an object met. And yes, I was using words such as “solitude” at 5! I had 9th grade reading skills when I entered school, and progressed to 11th grade reading skills by the first grade, while merely plodding along in subjects such as math (which I started falling behind on in grade 6, and to this day, I test out at an 8th grade level in math while my reading and writing skills are post-graduate). One would think this unusual (to say the least) profile and my “selective mutism” would have alerted the school that something odd was up (especially when I spent the recreation period in a tree reading a book, rocking back and forth, and flapping my right arm at odd intervals). But then, in the 80s, if you could speak sensibly, you just COULDN’T be autistic…

    Ah well. In general, the book is probably more useful to professionals, and to those who have a research interest in autism/asperger’s. The last section is possibly useful to special education instructors, and maybe to some parents, especially those who are trying home schooling techniques.

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