David Caruso's Got Nothing on Me

If you've been reading the blog for a bit you're aware that there are a lot of mysteries to solve when it comes to Josh and I do have a tendency to reference CSI.  That's probably because being Josh's mom, or the parent of any autistic child for that matter, requires more than your average amount of detective work. 

For the last couple of weeks, I noticed that Josh was taking off his right shoe a lot.  He would come out of school with it half off and just be walking on the heel of it or would be wiggling his foot around like there was something bothering him when I would put it on.  He does have some small plantar warts on his heel, but he has them on the right one as well and through some careful, after-he's-asleep ninja applications of Compound W,  they are mostly gone.  So I didn't think it was that.  I kept checking his socks to make sure I hadn't missed any objects or lint collections that he sometimes likes to put in there (see my post "Movers and Shakers" for more on that if you haven't already).  I decided he was just working his sock between his toes for more sensory input and tried to not worry about it.

Yesterday evening, when I was cleaning up after the boys were asleep, I noticed the shoe in the hall so I picked it up to put it by the door.  Something was missing.  Then I saw an insole a little ways away.  I picked it up and went to put it back in the shoe, when I noticed that it wasn't the right insole.  It was from his last pair of shoes, for the other foot.  Hmmm.  Well, so where's the one that actually goes with this shoe???  The search began.  I thought it was odd, because the one that wasn't for that shoe was so close to it and I could not find the correct one.  Then I remembered putting the old pair away so I went to check and sure enough, found the insoles as well right next to them... except one of them was actually the one that was supposed to be in the current right shoe.  *insert A-HA moment here* Realizing that he had had the wrong insole in the right shoe for the last couple weeks, I put the correct one in.  Poor kid!  He plays with all of our shoes (also see "If the Shoe Fits" for this!) and loves to take out the insoles and I have to play match-up at the end of the day.  Somewhere along the way I messed up and mixed one up, though it could very well have been Josh himself as he will put them in sometimes too.  It's so hard when he can't just TELL me what's wrong.

Feeling somewhat triumphant with one more mystery solved, I put on his shoes for school this morning thinking he would be so happy that it wouldn't feel so weird anymore.  He stood up and as he was walking away, I noticed that he was now moving his left foot oddly in the shoe...

My name is Sarah. Seattle. JSI. 

*puts sunglasses on*

If the Shoe Fits...

     Josh is not likely to wear it.  Give him shoes that are not his and too big for him though, and he could be the Imelda Marcos of the autism world.  Josh has a love/hate relationship with shoes.  Like most things with him, this is something that has evolved over a number of years.  When he was very young, he would wear whatever I put on his feet.  Once he started school (which for Josh was when he was 3 years old - early intervention in this state gets transferred to the school districts at that age) this started to change, particularly when he started taking his clothes off.   As I mentioned in the previous post, because keeping his clothes on was dependent upon his shoes staying on, I had to find shoes that he could not take off himself.  Hence, the hiking boot-type footwear became our shoe of choice.  What developed from there was a combination of circumstance and sensory issues that have lead to the problem we have today.  Neither Josh nor his brother outgrow things terribly fast so I don't have to buy new shoes for them very often.  This has been a double-edged sword as far as Josh is concerned.  The upside is that I haven't had to replace his shoes more than about twice a year.  The downside, is that since he was wearing the same pair of shoes for many months at a time, he was very used to the fit/feel of them.  While most of Josh's sensory issues seem to be a result of significant hypo-sensitivity leading to his craving a lot of sensory input (guess what, another post topic!), he seems to be hyper-sensitive when it comes to shoes.  This is fantastically ironic given his penchant for going to extreme lengths when it comes to creating sensory experiences for his feet.  Replacing his shoes with new ones either because he needed the next size up or because he'd worn out the ones he was wearing became a problem.  A problem that has become a great deal worse with time.  So much so that I buy him the same brand and style for as long as I can hoping that will help.... but it doesn't.  Well, it does a little.  I can't get anywhere near him with shoes that don't look like what he's been wearing.  At least with ones that look the same only a little bigger, I can get him to let me try to put them on him.  As you can imagine, companies don't always make the same style of shoes indefinitely.  So over the years I have on occasion, had to change to different brands when the style he's been wearing stops being made (this shouldn't be legal) making an already difficult transition that much worse.  It's one of those things you take for granted, with typically developing children.  They need new shoes, you get them new shoes.  With Josh, it's an event that is traumatic enough that I literally have to prepare myself psychologically for several weeks in advance.  I order the new shoes (Zappos rules!), they get here and I open the box, but leave them for a week or so to mentally get ready for what I know we have to go through.  I have to warn the staff at his school that it's "new shoe time".  When I think I'm ready I hide his old shoes and then enter what I can only describe as Smackdown mode in order to get the new pair on his feet.  It is a battle and it's not fun.  We are always late for school on these days, no matter how early I try to start the process.  He takes them off again in the car on the way to school, so we have to have a re-match once we get there.  The staff in his classroom know that they will have to deal with his taking them off throughout the next couple of days.  By about the third day, he's fine, and everything is back to normal in shoe-world.  Until the next time he needs a new pair.

     I did say this was a love/hate thing though, so let's talk about the other side of this coin.  While his own shoes in his own size are the devil, he is all about everyone else's shoes, especially if they are too big for him. It's enough of a fetish that I have to tell family and friends that come to visit to put their shoes somewhere less accessible or visible to him, or he will take off with them and then we'll have to go on a shoe hunt to find them again - unless of course he's wearing them.  He has a particular fondness for my slippers.  I have a favorite style of Ugg slippers that I wear when we're just hanging out at home and he was always taking them.  So, I checked it out and they make the same style in children's sizes so I bought him his own pair.  No go.  These are the exact same slippers, just in his size, but he won't touch them.  He wants mine.  So, what happens now is when I think I am in need of a new pair, I give my old ones to him.  This works perfectly.   He now has two pairs of my old ones (which he likes to mix and match)  and I don't have to constantly search the house for mine.  Like I said, we learn and adapt.  I'll leave you with this:  one afternoon I heard him coming down the hall - we have hardwood floors downstairs so what I heard was shoes so this caught my attention (the slippers don't make noise).  When I turned around, there was Josh, stark naked except for his pull-up, wearing a pair of my mules that have almost 3 inch heels.  There's something you don't see every day...  

Clothing Optional

     Well, as far as Josh is concerned that is. If Josh had a choice, he would be naked about 80% of the time. I say 80% because there are times when he is without attire, that he will in fact, find some article of clothing and put it on. Not necessarily the right way (he has been known to put his legs into the sleeves of a shirt and wear it as pants.... ) nor is it always something of his, but he will do it. Most of my male friends smirk when I mention Josh's preference for nudity and tell me that this is not an "autism thing" but just a "guy thing". Point taken, gentlemen. However, I would be willing to bet that with the possible exception of my friend Tyler, none of them were stripping down at almost 12 years old and running naked around their houses in front of their siblings, parents, or anyone who happened to be visiting and I can pretty much guarantee that they are not doing it now, as much as they might wish that they could.

     Josh has been at this for years and as you can imagine, this does lead to some issues. To be honest, it's not so much an issue for us that he is naked a lot. Much like the Blue's Clues and the french fries, it's just part of who he is and we are used to it. The fact that he is quite small for his age likely makes it easier, since he still looks like a young child and not like a pre-teen. The issues are primarily that he is not yet fully toilet-trained, and that other people are not used to it like we are. The toileting we have been working on for many, many years. At this point, he will use it, but not consistently. He is much better these days about telling me when he needs to go so his being naked as far as that goes, is not quite as much of an issue as it used to be. But there are still times when that is a problem. When he was younger it was a tremendous issue, as I'm sure you can imagine. So much so that I had to come up with inventive ways to keep him clothed to prevent disasters. Interestingly, shoes were a big part of whether or not he would strip off his clothes. If his shoes were on, his clothes stayed on. If they were off or he could take them off, then the clothes followed. This was the case at school as well. What it led to was my finding shoes that he could not take off (or at least, take off easily) himself, that he would wear. This is actually a tie-in to the next entry which will be devoted entirely to shoes, so remember this! We are talking about many years ago, so what I found were essentially hiking boots - given the lacing, the fact that I could double tie them, and that they came up over his ankles making it impossible for him to slide them off, they were perfect. So this is what he has been wearing... for years. They were very relieved at school since he was no longer stripping there. There was still one problem though. You can't wear shoes 24 hrs a day. So I had to figure out a way to deal with pajamas as he would strip in the middle of the night, leading to a very wet and or messy bed every morning. He couldn't wear 2-piece pajamas (pants/shirt) since there was no way to ensure he would keep those on. What I ended up doing was taking onesie pj's (the ones with the feet), cutting the feet off, and putting them on him backwards so that the zipper would be in the back. This worked well for a while, but he became adept at undoing the zipper anyway. So I added a t-shirt over top, making it that much harder for him to get to the zippers. This did the trick and he wore these footless onesies with t-shirts over top to bed for several years. I'm sure this looked bizarre to anyone who might have seen it, but hey, you do what you need to do.

     As I said, he is better about not toileting on the floor these days (though it does still happen sometimes) and he also does not strip in the middle of the night any more. So he is back in regular pj's now. But he sure does like to run around naked during the day. He can take his shoes off now, so the shoes are no longer helpful in that respect. My sister and her family spent Christmas with us this year and she has 2 children of her own, ages 14 and 12. I warned my sister before they got here, to talk to the kids about the fact that they would likely see Josh naked a lot and to try not to be too distressed by it. She did, but I think it's always a shock when you really see it happening. They handled it pretty well, considering. Within a day or so, they got very good at yelling "Aunt Sarah, Josh is naked again!" from wherever they were in the house without too much awkwardness. When we don't have other people around I pretty much let him be on this one. There are only so many times a day I can put his clothes back on before I get to the point where I give up, and I have found that recently, he is better about telling me when he needs to go to the bathroom when he is naked than we he is not. If there's any chance that this will help to finally get the toilet training accomplished then naked it is. I have 2 rules: if he wants to sit down to eat or sit on the couch to watch Blue's Clues, he has to at least be wearing a pull-up, and if he does have an accident on the floor, the pull-up has to go back on.

     Given the choice, if he's wearing clothes, he would prefer they belong to someone else. Especially shoes, but watch for that in the next post. He particularly enjoys wearing things in odd ways, or that are too big for him. I'm sure all of this is sensory based for him. No, it's not that clothes bother him. I know that there are a lot of children with autism who are hyper sensitive and don't like clothes because of how they feel. No, Josh takes them off because he likes how it feels to be naked (stop giggling :P ) - it's a much more significant sensory experience than when you are clothed. Ahhh, to be young and completely uninhibited. I do realize that at some point as he gets older this will become much more of a problem if he continues to do it. What we will do about it in that case, I can't tell you. Life with Josh is pretty much learn, adapt, survive, grow, and I'm sure this situation will be no different. For now, if you ever visit and Josh is giggling non-stop and running a lot, it probably means he's naked.  You've been prepared.