As the mother of a child with autism I am frequently questioned about the impact his behaviors have on our daily life. The tricky part of answering this question is that anything I say here applies specifically to our son and should not necessarily be generalized. In the autism community we have a saying that “if you have seen one child with autism, you’ve seen one child with autism”. In other words, while many autistic persons share certain traits and characteristics, they can still be as different in their behavioral presentation as day and night.
That translates into completely different needs, likes and dislikes for each individual. Stims (repetitive behaviors that serve no real purpose) vary from one person to the next and can change or remain steady over a lifetime. They may not even be noticeable in some. Our son has developed some interesting ones through the years.
In other words, what I am about to write about applies to our situation and may not mirror someone else’s experience. I chose to write about today’s subject, because many people, even professionals who work with someone who is autistic are often not aware of the impact these behaviors can have on a house. Most are pretty shocked when I inform them that our son’s autism has caused damage to our home that probably runs in the thousands of dollars. I also have to point out that he is not of a violent nature at all and most of these damages were incurred slowly but steadily. He is also closely supervised. Much of what he does happens on the sly and over time.
Even I was quite surprised to see the list I compiled for this post! I am calling it remodel by autism. It is certainly keeping us on our DIY toes!
Thinking back through the years, there are so many memorable phases. If I recall correctly it all began in earnest with his sticking everything in the heating vents phase. For a while nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that was small enough to fit through the slots of our heating vents was safe from being put in them! Our silverware disappeared at an alarming rate. “Honey, where are all the spoons?” followed by “Have you checked the vents?” was not an unusual conversation at our house. Band aids, credit cards, rubber bands, nearly my engagement ring and all kinds of flotsam made into the vents. What fixed the problem? Getting heating vents with a swirly pattern instead of slots! Who’d a thunk it?
The room that has arguably suffered the most is our main bathroom. Oh, the poor bathroom! I think we are on our third or fourth new toilet. Forgive me, but I lost count at some time. What is the big toilet killer at our house? Toys, mainly larger metal cars, lodged so deep down within its bowels (pun intended) that there is just no way to ever get them back out. Hubby and I can pull and replace a toilet in our sleep.
Other damages incurred are a ceramic soap holder that was ripped out of the wall cleanly from repeated obsessive pulling. That left a gaping hole right above the tub and me scratching my head wondering how I was ever going to fix it. Which I did, after nearly a year. The problem was that the tile the bathroom is sporting was no longer in production and we had no extra tiles to fill the gap. I carefully chiseled out the four bottom rows of tile and cleaned them to be reused. A couple broke in the process, but I added in a decorative detail by creating a row that includes glass tiles that are the same size as the original tile.
The back of the door gets dinged up regularly. In an effort to prevent a hole from hitting the towel hooks, my well meaning husband installed a bumper thingy and was repaid with this:
For some reason the towel holder met an untimely and gruesome end. I am still looking for a viable solution to fix this properly. Secretly I am dreaming of a total gut job and remodel, but don’t tell my spouse, he’ll have a coronary!
The faucet bit the dust somewhere along the line during a tantrum. At least now we have matching faucets in two out of three bathrooms. He also loves to lift up on the counter top and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before that will need to be replaced as well.
One current obsession/fascination is wire shelving, actually the removal of.
After going for the shelves in his own bedroom closet resulting in this interesting look, he is now after mine. Not sure how long they will last…
He proudly tells me that he broke it! Which brings me to the reason why we no longer have closet doors! Sliding doors were slammed hard enough to put cracks in the ceiling and folding doors were systematically and continuously dismantled. And I am working on an idea to update and make it functional again. More on that soon!
I am pretty sure we are the only house in our neighborhood, city, state to have bunny tracks on the ceiling. Just take a look!
Sorry, the picture doesn’t quite do them justice! Just take my word for it when I tell you they are all over!
Corner trim has a short lifespan around here, it gets pried off with regularity. Door knobs make holes where they should not be. Put a stopper behind the door? See above. The ones on the bottom don’t last very long, either. after they have outlived their novelty as an impromptu musical instrument, they are done for.
Ditto for chain pulls on ceiling fans. They last a New York minute – may be. I won’t bore you with the garage door that had to be replaced or the carpet that was pulled after being puked on so much no amount of cleaning would have resuscitated it. Let’s just say carpet in the dining room is a definite no no for me. Actually, I am not a fan of carpet anywhere anymore. And I won’t tell you about how we had to put alarms on all doors and windows along with bolt locks that are keyed inside and out. Nor will I put you to sleep with stories about how the chain link fence was untwisted by nimble hands that are supposed to be lacking the manual dexterity to do so.
When he’s not busy, but thinks I should be, he’ll commence with scattering fine dirt he stores for just such an occasion in his incredibly deep and seemingly endless pant pockets:)
Now you know why you won’t be seeing any legit Instagram worthy pictures of perfect interiors on my blog any time soon! But you know what? That is perfectly fine with me. Because if having a house worthy of gracing the cover of Better Homes and Gardens magazine would mean giving up on my adorable, funny, bright and loving autistic teenager, I’ll choose him without an ounce of hesitation EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a ceiling to paint.
Keep it simple!
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