Autism Unexpected: Autistic Child = Constant Vigilance

One day I left my home office for three minutes to brush my teeth. When I returned, Jack, my autistic son, was at my laptop, having navigated to three random new windows on my browser. His index finger was jammed down on the “delete” button and I watched my careful “stickies” notes disappear in front of my eyes.

See, in my life, childproofing means something very different that it means for many people. I don’t have to worry about baby gates at the top of stairs anymore, I don’t have a latch on my toilet seat, and I feel comfortable having taken the child locks off of my cabinets. In my case, I’m not so concerned about protecting my child from hurting himself. What I am concerned about is protecting my electronics from him.

In times past, Jack has reset my computer preferences, changed the default font size (to GIANT), and created crazy set ups that to this day I don’t know how he did it. Fortunately, restarting my computer has fixed all of these things. His tendencies to take things apart are not always quite so easily fixable. Some days he seems to be on a mission to reduce everything to its smallest possible component. Pencils that still have their erasers are his mortal enemies. And I almost forgot about the time he randomly bought an R.E.M. song from iTunes, not to mention his intense interest in the app store on my iPhone.

A kid who is smart, curious, and without a lot of mental boundaries can be a problem.

I am fortunate that my son’s obsessions are with mostly blunt objects and not with my knife drawer (knock on wood, knock on wood). I know that I will come back to my desk to find my computerized stickies note about free shipping at my favorite online store erased. I will discover that he has methodically pushed all my spare change into my car’s CD player. But at least he’s not going to hurt himself on them.


All children require a level of childproofing. Usually as they get older, that level of childproofing decreased. I’m finding that with Jack the reverse is true. As he gets older, I have to be more vigilant. I don’t necessarily think he is going to hurt himself or his brothers—it is more that I am afraid he is going to take apart my TV.

Because he’s still not quite seven, we’re able to redirect him to building and taking apart using his Legos and other building toys. But I know that the day is going to come when we’re going to have to buy him his own junky electronics to tinker with so he leaves mine alone.

Or maybe he’ll decide to start building instead of disassembling. Perhaps one day he’ll create fantastic machines and things for me. But until then, I’m staying vigilant around machines with tempting switches, I’m keeping my computer passwords secret from him, and I’ll immediately investigate whenever he’s suspiciously quiet in another room.
Originally published at Autism Unexpected on March 12, 2010.