When my son was about five years young, he had a fabulous occupational therapist named Nora. Full of wonderful ideas to address Zach’s sensory needs, Nora hooked us up with a mini rebounding trampoline, a bean box, noise reducing headphones, and chewelry. For many years, the trampoline sat in the living room, replacing the coffee table that obviously did not supply vestibular feedback. One has to have priorities, you know, and the need for his sense of equilibrium outweighed our need for putting our feet up on the coffee table. The bean box, after making him gag each time he touched it, found a place on the bottom shelf of the pantry. The noise reducing headphones still adorn his head from morning to night. And the chewelry that went everywhere with him was retired to the plastic crate in the closet along with the weighted blanket and the assorted whistles.
Lately, for who-knows-what-reason, Zach’s propensity for soft wooden surfaces, in which to sink his teeth, has returned. Yes, it looks like some tiny vandal with woodchucking tendencies has been let loose in our house. No longer can I run my hand down the bannister and feel smoothness. The handrail now seems to have splintery speed bumps from top to bottom.
You know how sometimes one person’s question can catapult you back in time? Well, Zach’s aide saw the latest laceration on the living room end table, and said, “Did Zach ever try using a chewy?” BAM. Twelve years in the time machine. And because I save everything, I knew I could find that green “P” shaped chunk of rubber and reverse its decade long retirement.
It made me somewhat sad to be honest. Pulling out that chewy and watching him chomp on it brings me back to a difficult time when we were new(ish) to autism and thought that once we were through a certain challenging phase, we were through that phase for good. Not so. As most veteran autism parents know, the challenges circle back around. The difficult phases repeat. Nothing really gets retired. So we’ll go along with this reincarnation of green rubber and hope it helps him cope with whatever’s going on. And I’m going to dig my sock monkey slippers out of the attic and sit beside him, feet up on the coffee table.