My name is Becky and I'm a Son-Rise Program Teacher at the Autism Treatment Center of America. I would love to help you!
I want to send you a big cheer for running your Son-Rise Program with your son for two years, that is a very wonderful and inspiring thing you have done! We want to support you and encourage you to keep going with your program as a way to help your son through this challenging time.
Here are some things to do:
1) I believe there is a reason your son is doing this. Here are some thoughts as to why he may be doing this. It' could be a communication! Be a detective and look at when he's doing this. Ask yourself the questions, "what happended before he hurt me?" and "what happended afterwards". Sometimes our children are having a challenge with processing the words that they need to say (I'm not sure of your sons verbal ability). When something didn't go their way and being physical with you is a quick and easy way to make things happen. Look for patterns in this behavior and notice when he does it "was I challenging him before it happened?", "was he asking for food and there was none left?", "did I get close to him", etc. Then what happened afterwards? "did it get my attention when I was busy doing something else?", "did it get him the thing he wanted?", "did I back off and give him some space?", etc.
2) He's looking for a reaction! Our children are constantly needing control and predictability in their lives which is why they ism. In a world that is out of control, he will be able to get a predictable response from you if you are feeling upset and uncomfortble or fearful as he comes at you and by focusing on being calm and comfortable as it happens, you can change that pattern that is happening with your attitude. To make the switch from being upset and uncomfortable to calm and comfortable, take a deep breath and embrace the fact that your son is doing the best he can with what he knows and is not out to deliberately upset you but he's just trying to create some predictability in his world. Try and love him just the same, even as he is doing these behaviors and know that you doing this will help and support him.
3) Protect yourself! This is a must! He is big and is hurting you and you need to do whatever it takes to keep yourself safe. My suggestion would be to do one of the following. Have a large therapy ball, beanbag or pillow available at all times so that if he runs at you, you can pick it up and place it in between you and him. Make sure that your legs are open and you have a good balance with your knees bent so that if he pushes against this shield or tries to go around it, you can move with him and resist against him with a strong, balanced posture. Explain to him assertively but lovingly that you are not going to let him hurt you and need to take care of yourself.
4) Offer him an alternative - perhaps as he is going through puberty, his hormones are taking over and he is experiencing a surge of intensity in his body where he needs pressure or impact. Experiment with having him slap his hand on the pillow, or squeeze it hard, throw the therapy ball across the room or offer him deep squeezes on his hands or pressure on his body. This may help calm him and give him a more useful way to deal with his energy burst.
5) Love yourself! You are doing the very best you can! There is no need to judge yourself or give yourself a hard time when this happens. You are his best resource and can help him through this time better than ayone else on the planet.
6) Get everyone on board and practice! If you have a spouse of volunteers, make sure everyone reads this and you can roleplay together what to do if he does this. Consistensy is key.
I wish you all the very best, please let me know how it goes.