By Tim & Laura Paauw
“How do you do it?”
This is a question we hear often. We would be willing to guess it is one of the most common questions that someone either thinks or perhaps even is bold enough to ask a family that has special-needs circumstances. They are referring to the busy “extras” that sometimes come with a disability or diagnosis. It isn’t an offensive question, it is reality. Its fair — there are special needs that most people don’t need to consider so they become curious. Adapting a house comes with surprises and costs, but worth each penny.
There is no doubt that our life has changed and continues to morph regularly at our home. Nolan’s autism creates interesting and, even at times, tiring worries and necessary adaptations. Thinking creatively outside of the box becomes a norm for us.
We’d like to take a few moments to share some of the ways our home may look subtly different than yours. Before we do, lets preface this blog posting with the understanding that the most common cause of childhood deaths related to autism is “wandering”, usually instigated by an innocent and genuine curiosity but leading an individual to a busy road or a body of water–both danger zones for someone who cannot swim and cannot handle/process the noise of zooming traffic. This is something we have taken to heart and seek to protect Nolan from the risk.
We also should clarify definitions. A house is an object, a place. The expression, “A home is where the heart is” better expresses the attitude of anyone sorting through the “how-to” situations in their house in order to provide the best and safe environment for those we love–making it a worthy home.
Here is an example, let’s play a quick photo game. This is portion of our living room:
One day a few months ago, Laura and I were sitting on our couch after the kids were in bed and she looked at me to ask, “Did you turn the heat up again? It feels roasting hot in here!”
I had not touched the thermostat. In fact, I actually was about to ask her the same question. I got up to look at the temp and noticed our home was a steamy 89-degrees. One of Nolan’s most enjoyable things in life right now is counting, some of you have seen the Facebook videos with his progress in this. Unfortunately, the arrows on a thermostat become a playground for the autistic brain wanting to see numbers going up!
We now have a key hanging up on our key-chains that I am willing to guess almost everyone reading this blog do not own. It controls our house’s latest remodeling look and opens this locked box:
The goal in many of our home adaptations is not about look as much as functionality and safety. Here is another example… take a look at this photo and see if you can guess what protective measure is in it:
You may have guessed the fence in the photo–and yes, that is one protective measure we have taken. In fact, a main feature to this house was that the yard came almost completely fenced. We are grateful for friends who helped us finish the fencing so we don’t have to worry as much about Nolan wandering as he plays outside (his favorite activity).
However, the fence isn’t the main safety feature in this photo… take a deeper look from a different angle:
Notice the protective locking mechanism about 2 inches up from the bottom pane of glass… if the window is lifted it cannot open beyond that point when the mechanism is sticking out (an option exists to push it back in). This feature not only adds security from people being able to get in but, more importantly to us, it gives us one more measure of safety from the potential fear of Nolan opening the window and going out someday (now, picture Nolan’s bedroom on the 2nd floor and this style of window will make even more sense).
Here are a few more things we have done because we love our son and want this to be not just a house, but our home…
We decided to have our sliding door’s “toe-kick” lock installed at the top of the door so that if Nolan wants to head outside he asks rather than going without our knowledge.
Most Michigan homes have a “storage room” somewhere in the basement. You know what I’m talking about, that room where the boxes get stacked near the furnace and you go there once in a great while.
In our home, we have decided to convert our storage room to a calming space for Nolan. We hung hooks from the ceiling and we give Nolan a new swing as a gift for his birthday or Christmas from time to time. This Christmas he received a horse-swing made from a recycled tire that he LOVES. We also have a disco-ball that now provides lighting fun for Nolan and his siblings in this room. Our storage room is one of the most used and happening places in the house!
We could give plenty of other examples, but just wanted to provide a glimpse of our home life for those wondering. We couldn’t be happier with the blessing of this house and we try to take changes needed with a smile knowing it meets needs of the ones we love the most. 🙂
No matter what your house looks like, we hope you have turned it into your home by providing for any special needs you encounter for the ones you love!!