Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Learning For Less

Last week I mentioned that we had recently ordered some chew toys for Konner to start school. When I was looking at the website to purchase these items I realized that some of this stuff was pretty expensive, and could be made for less. When I got the package and opened it I knew I could do it for less. Hopefully I can share some of these suggestions and help you save a little too.

As I begin this, I remember back to about a year ago when Konner was starting Kindergarten. It was suggested in an IEP meeting that we get him a weighted vest or blanket to help him when he starts to get frustrated or over stimulated (many autistic children like the pressure and will use it to help them calm down).

 I don’t remember who, but someone suggested that we use a hunting vest instead of a typical weighted vest. If you’ve never seen a typical weighted vest they are usually a dull gray with pockets along the chest and bottom which allow you to add heavy bean bag style weights to add pressure to the body. They work very well for short periods of time. They also are very obvious in a classroom full of colorful Spongebob and Cars t-shirts. We decided that this was a great idea because we could get a camouflage vest which has all the pockets for shells, calls, and other assorted items needed to bag a buck, and they were pretty cheap. We got lucky because this was fall and hunting season was upon us. If memory serves me correctly we paid around $20 for the vest. You can purchase ankle weights in the same department (sporting goods) for less than $10, and you have a weighted vest for less than $40 tax and all.

If you had purchased this online they run anywhere from $50 and up. Now, there are some stylish designs including zebra print and fur for the girls when you purchase online, and I don’t want to discourage anyone from buying these. I’m just trying to save some money, especially when we spend so much on other things including doctor’s appointments and therapy.

This accomplished a couple things. We helped Konner with his overstimulation without alienating him in the classroom. The other kids thought he was cool for wearing the camo vest, and really didn’t think much about it. Let’s face it, in eastern Oklahoma it’s common to wear camo to class.

Konner loves to chew on his pencils, as most kids do, but he gets extremely upset when his eraser falls off. This can actually start a meltdown if handled incorrectly. This is why we decided to purchase some “Chewable Pencil Toppers” from this site. We got three for $6.75. When we pulled them out of the bag I knew we overpaid. What we ended up getting was three four inch pieces of clear PVC tubing. I looked at Home Depot and found a 20 foot roll of the same material for less than $6.00. Now that’s a deal!

There are weighted blankets listed for $135 and up. These can easily be made by buying a heavy comforter and sewing in a few pockets for weighted bean bags. Cheap and affective.

As I looked deeper into this site I found a chair that was called a “sound chair”. This was a beanbag chair which included a way to play music and a vibration system to help stimulate the child. It’s a pretty cool chair, but they are asking $1,240 on SALE! I looked at Wal-Mart and they have a “Dorm Bean Bag Chair” for around $30, and it’s the same design. All you have to do is add headphones or a set of cheap speakers from an MP3 system and a vibrating massage chair attachment for less than $100 altogether.

There are certain things such as chew toys and oral instruments that are comparable in price, but when you add in shipping it just seems to be easier to get it close to home.

These are just a few things I noticed, and thought that it would be really easy to improvise these for much less. If you can afford the more expensive stuff then that is fine, but it’s really not necessary. This is especially true when we know that autistic kids are really finicky. They may not even like any of it when you get it home. Konner didn’t really take to the chewlry that we bought him, but now we know.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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