Wednesday, February 1, 2012

GBE2 Challenge: A Product Review

We affectionately call our older son "Houdini" because he is a master escape artist. He thinks like an engineer, and from an early age, he could find design faults in just about any product we put in place to try to tame his activity level.

It would be funny if it didn't get in the way of my parenting him.

For example, I recall the time he realized that he could beat all of the child seatbelt locks provided on the shelves at our local baby supply stores. That skill took us off guard. One day, life in the van was calm. The next day, he was roaming free, often stripping his clothes until he was naked. Why? I suppose because he learned that he could.


Pssshhh. Yeah. Like that worked.

I can still see his face staring back at me in the rearview mirror with a huge, taunting smile. This habit was an annoyance. We'd have to pull to the side of the road. Dress him. Rebuckle. Start again. It could more than double the length of time for our trips.

But, then came the day when he realized he could jump from his seat in order to exercise his opinion about where we were going---by grabbing the steering wheel. And, what about the day that he very slyly flipped the switch on his door to de-activate the child safety lock as he hopped into the van. That little maneuver allowed him to open his door from the inside any time he wanted--which was when he unbuckled his seatbelt while the van was still moving.

That made the game change very quickly. We realized that we had to somehow restrain him until he learned to sit quietly. My husband's belt cinched around his waist and bucked in the back of the seat?

Nah. He could slide right under it and onto the floor.

Cabinet locks on the buckel? Not bad, but it only slowed him down.

Once he worked on his fine motor skills, he had that down.

One day, EUREKA! We found it! The EZ-on Vest. A restraint system for cars, handy for children who roamed in vehicles and also for children with low muscle tone who needed support while being transported. We were so excited to put it on him! He sat back in his seat and eyed it critically. There were so many parts to it, I handed it over to my husband so that he could put his engineer skills to work. It took us thirty minutes to get it on him. And, it took him less than one to slip out of it. He found the one flaw in the design as soon as we hooked him in place.

The EZ-On Vest: Easy-Off. No-so-easy-on.

By this point, he was smart to our desire to restrain him, but he was also smart to the fact that we were losing the battle. We started turning the car around and bringing him home any time he got out of his seat. It angered him, but not enough to stop frollicing around the van.

My last-ditch effort was a safety harness system created by a dedicated designer who even used a padlock system for clever escapees.

Forget it. Too many clasps. Too hard to get onto the child without a struggle. Bottom line, this wasn't happening without WWIII.

I was at the end of my rope. I even began WWIII. But, then I saw how much our son did NOT want to be restrained. Some children accept it willingly. Some children need it due to muscle tone issues. In our case, restraining him was restricting his liberty, and he was fighting with all of his might to keep it. I understood his raw desire. As his mother, I felt compelled to respect it.

However, this child also needed to understand that we couldn't take him in the car if he was a safety risk. There was no good answer. For a long time, we restricted our activity. I didn't leave the house with him--and certainly not with both boys-- for fear that I was putting us all at risk.

Thank goodness for time and maturity. Today, he no longer dances around the van naked. I guess he decided it was no longer fun.

If only we could find something to keep him from opening the windows that doesn't involve plexiglass...


  1. Just when you have one answer, a new question pops up!

  2. Oh my!! How frightening and limiting at the same time. I mean--frightening that his safety was at risk, and limiting because I'm sure the desire to go from place to place to run errands was not easy.

    My daughter, did go through a phase of "stripping", I had always seen this as her desire to be in control of her environment as much as possible. But Thankfully she didn't unbuckle or dance around the car naked!! I learned a lot about sensory issues in moving vehicles from her. She's thirteen now--and can tell me what she went through back then--which looked like--to the casual observer--the seatbelt was torchering her at the time. Now it is all sort of making "sense" as she's able to describe those experiences.

    Excellent post--I love to learn from others with kids on the spectrum. Cheers, Jenn.

    1. I definitely agree that he enjoyed controling the environment. He still does. Because he is low verbal, there is so much about his life that is dictated by others. That fact has left an impression on me and guides me in a lot of how I parent him. I think that life would be difficult.

      I love to hear first-account sensory experiences! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Amy, I learn so much from you. Thanks for sharing your topsy turvy world with all us fans. :)

  4. *Chuckle* I know it isn't really funny, but the idea of him fiendishly plotting his escape and then doing 'The Streak' is just too cute! I'm hope you can look back now and maybe smile a little ;o)

  5. I'm almost always laughing at this in some way. This kid has spunk!

  6. Oh my! How frightening (and distracting) to try to drive through all of this. Thank goodness phases change and pass.

    Once again, I am loving the humor, honesty and wisdom in your post. I seriously think a collection of your parenting essays would make a compelling book Amy!