Parenting is crazy hard. Parenting a child with autism requires an unusual amount of creativity and resourcefulness. Each child is different, but most have unique challenges. Mine has has extremely limited speech, and his sensory processing disorder requires extra input sometimes, but also dictates that things like food touching his fingers and bloody noses drive him batty.
Today he has a bloody nose, and, of course, I didn’t know right away. When I found him the blood was already all over his face and clothes, and, I later discovered, his sister’s bedroom floor. He can’t stand the feel of the blood dripping down his nose, so he tries to remedy the sensation by aggressively rubbing or punching his nose, which is why, as you can imagine, bloody noses are a disaster.
I don’t have a great solution for bloody noses. I basically pin him down so he can’t kick me and hold his hands while he screams and thrashes. I dab at the blood and clean him up, waiting for the flow to slow down. Today he was so exhausted from his fight with it that he knocked out immediately after. While I can’t help you with bloody noses, I have a few other solutions that might make your life easier.
When Jac is exhibiting an undesirable behavior, it is often because of an intense sensory need. If I can replace the undesirable behavior with an acceptable one, everyone wins. For example, he likes to dump water on the floor. When he does that, I’ll either direct him to dump in the sink, or give him a shower. When he’s banging extremely loudly, I’ll give him an alternative auditory input by directing him to play with his marble tree, which produces melodic tones, or with a musical keyboard.
2. Duct tape the car seat
Jac is an amazing escape artist. When he sets his mind to something, he seems to exhibit superhuman, or at least, superchild strength, and a laser focus. This is obviously a hazard to his health, as he doesn’t understand certain dangers, like being unbuckled in a car while it’s in motion. He can get out of buckles that my mother-in-law can’t even unbuckle. We looked into covers or adapters, but reviews were bad and the products expensive. So we duct tape the buckles he can undo himself, keeping scissors in the car in case of emergency.
3. Put snacks where he can reach
We haven’t been able to do this yet. He doesn’t ask for snacks, but tries to get them himself. It’s a problem when they’re up high, not because he can’t reach them, but because he can. The ideal thing to do would be to put a day’s worth of snacks where he can easily and safely reach them.
4. Tie the stroller buckles
Jac is five, but often we still need to put him in a stroller. He doesn’t mind, but still tries to escape. The buckle on our regular stroller is too hard for him, but the one on the double stroller is easy for him to unbuckle. I don’t need him running around at places like the mall, so instead of using the buckle, I actually tie the straps together. He hasn’t been able to unknot it. Actually, most adults can’t …
5. Encourage what he loves
Jac barely talks, but he sings all day long, his own mini-compositions, nonsense melodies, that I have all memorized. His favorite thing is when I sing them back to him, so of course, I oblige, and that’s where I get most of my connection with him. He’s good at certain things, even though they’re quirky. I make room for them even if it can get annoying at times (super-loud arpeggiator on repeat in the synthesizer, anyone?).
6. Backwards zippered pajamas (plus duct tape)
I actually posted a review about these awesome inescapable pajamas that are the cheapest and cutest I could find online. We’ve been using them for over a year now and they are a staple in our home. They are the only clothes Jac can’t get out of (if he was potty-trained, nakedness wouldn’t be so much of an issue). If you duct tape his diaper you can even prevent him from removing it entirely.
7. Car music
We went six years without kid music in the car, but when Jac started getting whiny and unhappy, without the ability to articulate why he was upset, music in the car was a godsend. We quickly figured out his favorite tunes (he hums along) and put them on a playlist. Magic.
8. Snack in a cup
Jac won’t touch his food with his hands. If he still feels this way when he’s older, my guess is that he’ll wear gloves. But for now, I’ve seen him eat snacks out of a cup before, and now I try to serve him snacks in a cup. He pours the snack into his mouth as if it were liquid. It sure beats him trying to grab it with his mouth of the table. Or making me feed him EVERYTHING.
9. Quick sensory input routines
Over the past few years I came up with a few routines that kept Jac pretty happy. When I shared them with his therapists, they explained exactly what sensory needs they were filling and why they worked for him. So throughout the day I try to incorporate these really short routines whenever possible. They include things like me placing him face-up on my lap and then letting his head dangle over the edge of my knees, making a swing-seat with my hands and swinging him between my legs, and grabbing his torso and twirling around so that his legs fly through the air. You can find things that work for your child (feel free to leave ideas in the comments!)
10. Make a list of your solutions for your caregivers
I created a photograph that has a list of all the things that help regulate and calm my son when he’s having a hard time. It’s not exactly comprehensive, but it gets the job done. I’ve shared it with his babysitters and his Sunday school teachers. It helps me feel more confident and his caretakers more prepared.Being an autism mom is crazy-hard. You’re always on your toes, alert for things that could harm your child, apprehensive of social situations and worried about his or her future. The great thing is that there’s an awesome community of awesome autism parents willing to share solutions with you! Feel free to share some of yours in the comments!
If you liked this post, you might like A Tribute to All the Autism Moms.