Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hole-y Earth Week T-Shirt

Our son’s school asked all students to wear green yesterday as part of the Earth Week activities they are having. The last time he wore green, for St. Patrick’s Day, Kai bit a big hole in the only green shirt he has. And so, we had to decide if we should get him a new one for Earth Week.

The truth is that we sometimes send our son to school in shirts that have holes in them. Does that make us bad parents?

When Kai gets upset, he bites. He has bitten me, but I am now pretty good at keeping his mouth away from my body. The staff at his school is, too. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t try. And, when he can’t bite people, he still wants to bite something.

It is common for kids with autism to have sensory issues. Many crave oral stimulation and end up chewing on their clothing. In my son’s case, this tendency increases when he becomes disregulated. And when he is really upset, he doesn’t just chew; he bites with such fury that he often rips a hole right through his clothes.

We try to get him to chew on other things. When he starts to get agitated, we often give him gum. They do the same at school. We also have tried various sensory chew toys. Although they can work well, you have to remember to keep them with you at all times because you never know when you will need it. And when Kai is really mad, sometimes he will just throw it back at you when you offer it to him.

Similarly, we’ve tried Chewlery® which are chewable bracelets. The idea is that he can wear it and so it will be with him whenever he has the need to chew. But, he doesn’t seem to like having it on his wrist, so he takes it off. We’ve lost so many that it just doesn’t seem worth it.

As a result, many times he ends up biting a hole in his shirt.

If we were to throw out every shirt that had a hole in it, we would be replacing his wardrobe every few weeks or so. It just is not practical. And so, he often goes to school wearing a shirt with a hole in it.

With yesterday’s ‘wear green for Earth Week’ celebration, we had to decide whether to send him to school in non-green clothing, let him wear his old green shirt with the hole in it, or get him a new one. We decided to get him a new one.

He came home with a hole in it.

As is often the case, a change in the usual schedule may have thrown him off enough to get him upset.

As part of their Earth Week activities, the entire school had gathered to watch some videos about the environment. Just as it was to start, Kai started shouting that he was hungry. It was after lunch so there really should have been no reason for him to be hungry, let alone be shouting about it. I think the disruption to his routine overwhelmed him.

Of course, the staff had to escort him away as he was disrupting the movie for everyone. And, that just made him more upset.

Whenever he has to take a timeout at school, Kai expects everything to stop for him until he can return. But, of course, it doesn’t work that way. Class goes on without him, or, in this case, the movie started without him. As he was serving out his timeout, he got furious that he was missing out on the film. And his new shirt paid the consequences.

It is now a not-so-new looking shirt with a big hole in front.

We won’t throw it away, though. Hey, it’s Earth Week. We are just doing our part to recycle.


  1. It is a lovely green!
    And no your not a bad parent - we have hole-y clothes too!

  2. The good news is sometimes these chew phases they have when young pass. Alex used to chew on clothes, window sills, cubbies at school. Now he rarely chews on anything. When he bit a window sill in front of the pediatrician he immediately said, "mineral definciency" and had me increase certain minerals. That did the trick for Alex but I know kids chew for different reasons.

    You do what you gotta do with the shirts. I send my son with stained clothes for the same reason. He stains everything and we can't keep getting new stuff. We do a lot of garage sales where shirts can be bought for 50 cents.

    Happy Earth Week!

  3. Thanks, AMR. Love the garage sale idea!


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