In my last post, I spoke of Tate’s attachment to objects, and I spoke briefly about his shoes. Mentioning the shoes, brought back a lot of memories for me. I’m sure Tate’s attachment to his shoes was partly because of the familiarity and routine that went with wearing the same shoes every day. However, it was more than just that.
When Tate was at preschool, the attachment to his shoes sometimes got in the way of his daily activities. There were times when Tate was expected to remove his shoes. At rest time, or for water play, or sand play, the shoes needed to come off and Tate was stressed. There were occasional art projects when the kids were supposed to trace their feet, or even make footprints with paint that caused Tate to melt-down. Paint caused sensory over-load for Tate, even when he was using his hands, so the removal of shoes was a double whammy. There were a couple of games the teachers played with the students during circle time that caused Tate a lot of anxiety. One game called for the children to remove one shoe and throw it into a box or bucket. A child was asked to pull a shoe from the container and take it to its owner, thus teaching matching skills. Mercifully, the teachers made sure Tate’s show was on top, and back on his foot as soon as possible. There was another game that was similar and I think both shoes had to come off for that game. We wanted Tate to take part in as many activities as possible and learn to deal with these kinds of things, so he was forced to participate most of the time. Tate got plenty of warnings before it was time to take his shoe(s) off and plenty of reassurance that his shoe(s) would only be off for a short time. I watched circle most days through a two-way mirror and it was hard not to intervene, run into the room to get his shoe back for him. When Tate becomes anxious it is hard for me to watch. He seems to be in pain physically.
When Tate was eight we planned a family trip to Seattle. It was to be Tate’s first time to fly. I did not know how Tate would handle the flight. I had heard some pretty awful stories from people about flying with children who had autism. Tate’s behavior consultant suggested a social story. She reminded me Tate would be expected to remove his shoes when we went through security. She also reminded me about how different the bathrooms look on a plane, another potential trial for Tate. I am usually able to anticipate and prepare Tate for hardships he will face, but I had not even thought about the difficulties of getting Tate to walk through security. Any one part of the whole process could have been hard on him, but especially the removal of his shoes. Allowing his shoes to ride on a conveyor belt would be another potential problem. Yikes, I was getting worried. We read the social story several times and acted out “going through security.” Pretending and imagining are hard things for Tate to do so acting out a scenario is difficult but we tried. Tate had lots of questions about it all and was quite anxious as he got used to the idea of giving up his shoes to a stranger. When the day came to leave on our trip, we rushed through security without a hitch. Tate was nervous and he did stim but, overall, he did very well. I credit the social story and the practicing. Thank goodness Tate’s wonderful behavior consultant anticipated the problems and helped us to prevent them. The airplane ride turned out to be one of Tate’s favorite parts of the vacation.
Tate seems to have outgrown most of his anxiety over shoes. He still cannot tie a bow so I buy Velcro shoes. I found a shoe store that carries them in adult sizes. Tate’s feet are huge now so we just buy the same shoe every time, one size bigger and he hardly notices we got new ones. Shoe shopping used to be so traumatizing for Tate and now it is not an issue. I sure hope the Velcro shoes go all the way to size 15 because I imagine his feet will grow as big as his brothers’ feet have. His feet are already bigger than his brothers’ feet were at age ten.
Shoes are an issue for Sydney too but in a very different way. Sydney does not form unnatural attachments to inanimate objects. She has favorite toys and clothes but no more than any typically developing child would. She does, however, LOVE shoes. Sydney doesn’t get attached to any one pair. She loves them all. She learned at a very early age, to say “my shoes are hurting my feet,” as we walked past the shoe department in a store. I, being the intelligent person that I am, only got “taken” a few times before I figured out the game she was playing. Sydney’s favorite shoes are flip-flops. She cannot wear the cheap ones because the plastic gives her blisters, and her high tolerance for pain allows her to ignore the blisters until they are huge sores. (See my earlier post called “Does it Hurt” for discussion about pain tolerance.) I have to buy her flip-flops that have fabric between the toes, and even then, watch for her feet to get sore. I tried just avoiding flip-flops for her entirely but she took all the laces, straps, and buckles off all her shoes trying to create flip-flops herself. She just loves them so. I have to hide them for the fall and winter. I used to toss them onto a top shelf in my closet. I have had to find a much better hiding place because the temptation is too much for Sydney’s limited impulse control. She knew those shoes were up there and climbed my shelves to get them down whenever I was not watching. Most of my older kids would not have disobeyed like Sydney does, and if they had, they would have learned from a single spanking not to climb the shelves or attempt to get something off-limits. Sydney does not learn from a spanking and she cannot plan ahead and remember the consequences of her actions. It amazes me continually that Sydney does not seem to realize she will be found-out if she wears shoes I took away from her. The impulse control to touch, grab, or obtain things that she wants, is just too great for her to resist. Exposure to alcohol in the womb took the ability to control her impulses. No amount of talking, reasoning, or consequences for her actions can give that back to her. One of my biggest fears for Sydney is that she will someday be in jail because she could not resist the impulse to shop lift and steal things. I have read that a large percentage of the people in our prisons today, show signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), thus they have little impulse control and they have poor judgment. They do not learn from the consequences of their past actions or think about what the consequences of their crimes will be. FAS is a birth defect that mothers (BIRTH mothers) could completely eradicate. If no more babies were born with FAS the number of people in prison would drop dramatically in a few years. A child should not have to pay the price for a birth mom’s binges. It is a life sentence.