In my last blog entry “Recommended,” I mentioned that Amazon. com sends me e-mails on a regular basis called “Recommended for You” that suggest items I might like to buy based upon my purchase history on their website. However, these recommendations are actually geared for Alex because he is the avid Amazon shopper; I’m just the one who places the orders for him online. The most recent “Recommendations for You” list included the following items: Dictionary of Computer and Internet Terms, a digital light meter, a Math Shark electronic game, and a Robot Claw toy. Frankly, it’s a little eerie how well they know my son and his idiosyncratic interests. I think he’d like all of those suggestions, but the only one that really intrigues me is that Robot Claw. However, I would be curious to see what lists they’d come up with for me if they knew my buying habits instead.
One category of recommendations would likely be cleaning supplies. Over the years, I have tried a number of products to make my life easier with cleaning up after Alex, especially since toilet training him took years. While none of the companies who make these products are compensating me for their endorsements, I sing their praises nonetheless. For its ability to suction up fluids quickly and easily, the Bissell Spot Lifter portable carpet cleaner is a handy tool to clean up messes from all types of floor surfaces. After cleaning up the mess, Woolite pet stain remover not only removes stains but the odors that accompany the source of those stains. Before Alex was toilet trained, we went through so many spray bottles of that stain remover someone might think we had a house full of pets. After the carpets dry, another great product is Arm and Hammer baking soda carpet deodorizer, which keeps rooms smelling fresh while being safe for pets and children. Similarly, regular baking soda is a wonderful addition to laundry products. After doing many loads of Alex’s clothes and bedding after he had toileting accidents, I found that baking soda removed any odors completely. Also, when he went through a phase of chewing on his shirt collars, baking soda in his laundry kept his shirts from reeking of bad breath odor. While these products saved our carpets and laundry, one of my favorite recommended cleaning products are Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Although I tend to be suspicious of anything described as “magic,” these handy sponges are everything they claim to be. From wiping off handprints to stuck-on food stains, the Erasers easily clean without damaging surfaces. My favorite use for the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, though, is wiping boogers off walls. While I don’t need to explain how I know this use, I will add that I have considered putting NASCAR tear-off windshields on the wall next to Alex’s bed. For those who are not NASCAR fans, the race car windshields have several clear vinyl covers over them that they tear off during pit stops. This is a faster way to remove debris than cleaning the actual windshields. If I had those tear-offs, I wouldn’t need the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, but I doubt that they market tear-off windshields for household use.
Besides products that I would recommend for conventional uses, my list would include common items for unconventional uses in the household where a child with autism lives. For example, the NUK Healthy Start training toothbrush set is intended to keep a baby’s gums and emerging teeth healthy. We used the NUK rubber-tipped brush with Alex even after he had permanent teeth as a way to decrease his sensory issues by gently rubbing the roof of his mouth with it. Similarly, the Slinky is a classic toy for most kids that can go up and down stairs, but holding the Slinky in both hands and shifting the coils with their soft clicking noise calms Alex as a sensory device. Another typical item we used to calm Alex when he was younger was a simple calculator. I always carried one in my purse, and if he became anxious or bored when we were out in public, I’d hand him the calculator. He’d happily press the buttons [and was probably doing calculations before we recognized his savant math skills] and keep himself occupied. The calculator has now been replaced by handheld electronic games and Ed’s iPod when Alex needs something to keep him busy while he waits. Trying times pushed us into figuring out solutions to problems, and we came up with a couple of common objects that helped us tremendously. When Alex was having meltdowns during his turbulent teen years, he’d often scratch and pinch us. To prevent that, we discovered that oven mitts limited his ability to hurt us. We kept pairs of them throughout the house so that when he became agitated, we’d tell him he need to put them on to keep his hands warm, and he couldn’t scratch or pinch with those padded hands. Sometimes, he’d even fall asleep wearing them. When he went through sleepless times, we didn’t want him wandering through the house, and we really didn’t want him getting in the habit of sleeping in our bed. Buying an air mattress to put in his room as a temporary bed for one of us to stay with him until he fell asleep was a simple solution to a big problem. They say, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and I would say that being the mother of a child with autism has made me much more inventive—thanks to God’s help—than I would have ever thought. If Amazon ever comes up with a “Recommended for You” list geared for autism moms, I’d be curious to see what else they might include, but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for those tear-off windshields.
“O Lord my God, You have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list...” Psalm 40:5