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Safety and Special Needs, A Series #1

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If there’s one thing I can count on, it’s my blog buddy, Lizbeth, from Four Sea Stars, to bring a great story to the table.  She’s been kind enough to be the first contributor to the series, Safety and Special Needs.

Be sure to visit Lizbeth at her blog, where you’ll find many more crazy, funny, and poignant stories about raising her her kids, one of whom has Asperger’s.

Lizbeth, Four Sea Stars

I’ve often joked that my son has a running relationship with cars, specifically the side mirrors.  And by relationship I mean, they hit him in the face when he walks by.  Every single time.  Alex doesn’t have any real sense of where his body is in relation to where other things are around him, so he often runs into walls, misjudges distances, bumps into people, stands too close, etc.  We’re on a constant vigil for things that may cause problems.

When he was younger, we lived in a house that had an open floor plan with one small detail—it had two steps down to the main family room.  It was the house that we brought Alex home to and we grew used to those two steps and never really thought much of them.  Alex never thought of them either.

He fell up them, down them, rolled over them, on them, tripped down them and one particular time forgot they were there all together…..and landed in the Emergency Room and went right into surgery.

Having forgotten about the steps, he careened over them and when he landed, he bit through his bottom lip, he bit clear through it, and it had to be stitched back together.  And since he has sensory issues, those stitches in his mouth were replaced no less than three times before we just gave up—he would relentlessly chew through them.  I can’t begin to tell you the horrors of watching your child chew his mouth into hamburger and how bloody that was.  Enough said.

That was when he was three.

So we’re always on the look-out for things that we know he will run into, not see, or not even be aware of.   Which brings me to the car mirrors.  My kid is a magnet for them.  We could be in a wide open parking lot and he’d still manage to smack into one.  I would intentionally park away from other cars, I still do.  Trust me, I’m not parking in the back nine to get a little more exercise, it’s to protect my son.  There was a period of time where he had a series of black eyes from running head first into a car mirror.

I can’t trust he won’t be busy in his own thoughts and not be aware of what’s around him.

And that brings me to a bigger issue.  I have to be his eyes and ears—all the time.  I can’t rely on him to pay attention to his surroundings.  I can’t depend he’ll see oncoming traffic and I certainly can’t expect him to walk across a parking lot unattended.

So for us safety is not a given.  It’s not something we take for granted and its not something we take lightly.  It’s something that keeps me up at night.  I’m constantly ticking off where Alex can get hurt, lost, wander away or run over.  And I’m being dead serious here.  The amount of time my neurons are firing, thinking of all the ways to keep him out of harms way, is astonishing.  I can’t trust he’ll look both ways at a corner and I can’t expect him to look up from the ground to see the car mirrors.

So the next time you see me and I’m out in the nosebleed section of Target’s parking lot, know I’m not there for my health.  I’m there for my son’s.


About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

16 responses »

  1. I live this every day, as well. I often say that Tate is not aware of his space-time-continuum. That other van waaayyyy out in the back lot? That’s us…

  2. Yep. Story of my life. I’m in constant watching and fearing mode. Waiting for him to run in front of a car or waiting for him to crash smack dab into a wall because he is always looking behind him when he is walking forward or has his eyes out to the side. He’s yet to be tall enough for car mirrors but I can guarantee he’s going to hit them someday.

  3. I didn’t know Alex was doing so many of these things when he was little. That chewing through the stitches sounds so awful. I ache for you Lizbeth!

    Tootles does the exact same thing. What I’ve come to realize withy own son, though is that I do not believe he has any peripheral vision in addition to the depth perception and sensory processing. He most recently put a beautiful pencil eraser sized black bruise right next to his eye from hitting his face on the spoiler of a toy car he was examining up close.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that wheny son has an emergency visit at the dentist for bleeding front teeth from a fall, my son’s slower ability to process information kept him from putting his hands out to catch him from a fall.

    So, it’s probably a good idea for all of us to try and teach that skill through OT as well as stepping, looking and just wrapping them in bubble wrap and helmets for school. 😉

    Thanks Flan for a great series idea!

  4. While we don’t have it that bad, our son went through about 2 years of CONSTANTLY walking into car mirrors. I thought it was just him! My husband and I made sure one of us was in front of him to get to the mirrors first and direct him around/put our hand between the mirror and his face.

  5. My pokey son is like this. He walks at unpredictable zig zags. Once, he loped right in front of me, causing me to step into him and literally break AND dislocate my toe. It will never be the same. “No, honey, of course it wasn’t your fault.” Now, my lightning-fast daughter has uncanny maneuvering abilities – but poor (or no) judgment.

    Between the two, it’s very hard for us to safely make it through parking lots, so we take a different approach. I (mostly) unashamedly use our handicapped tag and park very close. Clearly, no good will ever come from us walking through parking lots. I hold my breath every single time!

    Great post on a great blog. Two of my faves! xoxo

    • Thanks and do you know my whole big toe is black and blue from when Alex dropped a brick on it while we were on vacation. Long story but I had the same reaction, “No babe, it’s not your fault…mommy will be OK, just give her a minute.”

  6. Yeah, my little guy’s not so good on safety. He also just dangles from my arm when i try to walk hand in hand with him, so I often end up tripping over him and I live in fear of us going splat in the middle of crossing the street. But man, that whole stitched episode must have been awful… **hugs** Lucky kid’s got a great mom!

  7. God, I love you Lizbeth — and I too know the joys of having a child who has no body awareness whatsoever. It’s simply amazing how one little person can bang into, step on, walk through, and fall across so many things!

    I will offer you a little consolation — my brother was a LOT like Alex with the steps. We always knew D was going up or downstairs because we’d hear step, step, step, kathump–bumble-bump! He did grow out of it… eventually… like, when he turned 30.

    • Haha!!! Well, I do know he’s mine….I’m still running into things. I swear, when I get up and go pee in the middle of the night I run into the same corner of the same wall every single time. Without fail.

  8. Oh man Lizbeth, that sounds exhausting! I am very lucky in this regard because Jack is like a HALL MONITOR about safety. Oh he is Mr. Straight Arrow about crossing the road, and is surprisingly agile, which is good, because since he was very small, he’s been winging around rooms and parks BARELY missing sharp, jagged things by mere millimeters.

  9. Oh gosh, that chewing through his stitches must have been awful to witness. My guy SWEARS he looks before he crosses the road now that ‘I’m more mature mum’. he’s usually ON the road before he does so. He’s 12…and aims to be getting the bus to secondary school in September. I’m terrified!

    xx Jazzy

  10. This lack of body awareness you speak of is EXACTLY why I had to fight the school for a safe transportation situation for my son. This is an aspect that people who don’t know anyone with ASD really, REALLY don’t understand because the school’s solution was “well he can navigate around the building just fine, so we’re not doing anything.”


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