So often in Autism Land we must come up with temporary fixes. In fact, maybe all of our solutions are just temporary fixes. Do we ever really get to mark the Trouble Ticket as Closed? More times than not Plan A just gives way to Plan G. We usually find ourselves settling for solutions that will just buy us time until we can figure out another solution. Our kids are just that clever, persistent and resourceful.
Many months ago I started having a problem with Rhema in her booster seat in the van. She would undo the buckle and run around the inside of the van turning on interior lights and licking windows. She’d climb into the back and dutifully put on her bike helmet and try to ride her bike. In the trunk. All while I was driving. I’d pull over, buckle her back in her seat. By the time I was back in my own seat, she was out of hers. It was dangerous for all of us and completely unnerving for me.
Commands and pleas to “stay in your seat” went unheard and unheeded. There was no way to explain the dangers of standing, jumping, skating (yes, one day a friend put hand-me-down skates in my trunk) and biking in a moving vehicle to a pre-verbal child.
So we express-ordered lots of different seatbelt covers. It took me a good, frustrating 45 minutes to put the seatbelt cover on, but after I got it on I was triumphant. You keep me on my toes, little girl, but you gotta get up pretty early in the morning to outsmart me…I got an A in Calculus. I put Rhema in her seat and smugly watched her try to unlatch herself. She noticed the cover and I detected curiosity in her face – I was at least hoping for annoyed. In 2 seconds she manuvered the seatbelt cover off and hoped out of her chair. I groaned, and tossed the cover down in the car in disgust. The next time she got in the car she picked up the cover and tried to put it back on herself – because well, it was supposed to be there – just so she could take it off again.
During the summer, the director of Hope’s preschool called me about a large special needs car seat that had been donated to the school, and did I want it? I was dealing with so much at the time – Rhema’s lead poisoning and moving out of our house – I felt like the special needs chair was a total Godsend. However, when I picked up the carseat I knew right away that it wasn’t a solution – Rhema would surely learn to undo the harness. But at least it would buy me some time.
She actually figured out how to get out within days, but she was mildly entertained by the big, blue oversized chair and the old Superman stickers on the buckle. So she didn’t bother getting out for a whopping 3 months! But then one day she decided she’d had enough and went back to her somersaulting-through-the-van antics.
Last month when I was driving on a busy highway I suddenly felt her standing behind me, breathing on the back of my neck. When I realized she was methodically placing Fritos in my hair I knew it was time for a new ‘buying time’ solution.
Bring out the big guns. I spoke with the nurse at Rhema’s school about a harness-tether system that she uses for her own son. She told me it would change my life. I ordered the equipment through a bus company/distributor in another state, and it arrived last week.
Here I present our latest solution: Operation Harness and Hook Her. (Say that fast. Hee hee.)
This nifty vest zips in the back and has mounting shoulder straps that back-thread and lock! There are D rings with snap hooks (but I don’t know what they’re for)! There are crotch straps and loops that a lap belt can be threaded through! Tether hooks on the vest attach to a vehicle tether anchor/floor mount system (that we’re still installing in the van) behind her seat! (I’m so excited)!
And all I have to say is, “Top this, Rhema girl. I dare you!”
Meh. I give her a week.