Saturday, July 21, 2012

Plumber's Tubing, Anyone?--#NaBloPoMo

I sat on the floor of our older son's bedroom after school one day, just by his side.

"Back, please," he said to me.

I was too close. We were staring up at his best friend, his red Dirt Devil upright, which sits in a very specific place and in a very specific position right at the middle edge of his bedroom carpet.

Nobody may touch it.

He smiled as he ran his hands over the white light that once shined brightly. You see, our good friend no longer has power. It has no plug, cut off long ago as a common practice in this house. After a while, with no plug, our son even took out the cord.

Our red Dirt Devil upright is just a memory of what once was.

I was taken back to the early years when we were new to autism and sensory processing disorder, just learning that our son could not regulate what he was feeling in his body. Sometimes he would feel nothing. Sometimes he would feel too much. Sometimes he'd run from feeling. Sometimes he would seek it.

One thing was certain: our son's sensory system made absolutely no sense to me.

Before he turned two years old, he started receiving treatment for his sensory processing disorder from an occupational therapy group in town, and someone quickly noticed that his fingers were regularly in his mouth.

"Does he do that a lot?" I was asked.

Who knew? The kid was hell on wheels. I was too busy keeping him from running into the street to notice if his fingers were in his mouth while that was happening.

"It's possible that he has oral sensory needs," she told me. "I think he is craving stimulation, heavy input, into his mouth."

Shirts, toys, tables, chairs, cutlery, markers, pencils--the list is endless. An oral sensory seeking child will chew on anything he can get. Our older son would seek in times of distress/anxiety.

And as a solution for the inappropriate choices area kids were making to fulfill their sensory-motor needs, our son's occupational therapy group chose to use some plain old plumber's tubing that can be purchased at any supply store.

Funny how the width of that plumber's tubing turned out to be so darned close to that of an average power cord.

Lamps, fans, humidifiers--you name it, they were no longer safe around our son. We'd walk into a room and find him chewing away on a cord, sometimes while it was still plugged into the wall.

So...what to do when your child chews on cords but also has a love for vacuum cleaners that simply can't be stopped?

We cut the plugs.

For those vacuums that had to be in his room, it was the only way to safety. Thanking the Heavens for the fact that my husband is an electrical engineer, I let him do his "thing" in safeguarding and de-activating the vacuums. Otherwise, there was a ban on anything with power in his room.

That was a bummer.

Sick kid? Can't humidify. Need a decent light? Can't use a lamp. Oh, sure, you can always BYOH or BYOL, but, geez, all I ask is can't anything about parenting autism be easy?

I don't remember exactly when the cord chewing stopped, at least chewing at that level of intensity.

We still offer proper chew tubes when he is upset with gastric pain. However, I haven't seen him zone in on a power cord in years.

I suppose time has come now that we could put power back into his Dirt Devil, but out of one need created another: his best friend needed sound. Without power, our son was forced to pretend that the vacuum had power and noise and light.

I often hear him upstairs, providing sound for his old buddy as the two of them pretend to vacuum away in his bedroom. Never in a million years would I expect that all the headaches brought to us by the poor choice of plumber's tubing would end in the glorious creation of pretend play, a developmental milestone which our son was missing.

Cordless, scuffed and missing one wheel, that Dirt Devil upright, in many ways, has been a friend to us all.

NaBloPoMo July 2012 Challenge. Staying away from the summer sun so that I can blog about "Kids"...thirty-one times.


  1. Cord chewing is a scary thing. I'm glad it stopped.

  2. OMG...that would be horrid! I dealt with a cord chewing dog, but I had a crate to put her in when I couldn't watch her, probably no kid crate at your house.

    It might be something to think about...
    Kidding, of course, I'm happy that old dirt devil has sound via T...what a cool side effect of removing the danger.