Oct 232017

John Garnish of the Bournemouth panel is asking for help with the following please:


One of our OTs has come up with a problem to which I can see no practical solution.

The client is a 20-yr old man who is severely autistic but has no physical disability and is able to move around freely.  He shreds items of everyday use, in particular the inside lining of Motability vehicles.  He has damaged a number of vehicles which is an expense that his family cannot maintain.

Thank you for your help


(Case Coordinator – Bournemouth & District REMAP Panel)



  12 Responses to “Protection of interior of vehicles from shredding”

  1. My daughter is a teacher that works in a special needs school where she specialises in autism, so I forwarded the post to her for comment. Hope it helps in some way…

    “I agree, it’s unclear what the reasons are – if his behaviour is due to distress, then finding the cause is needed – it could even be an air freshener or radio being on (or off, if he likes music). I also strongly advise structure to journeys; it might be somebody sitting too near or too far, or not knowing where he’s going or how long the journey will be (despite doing it regularly, he may still not understand where he is going, or why). If he isn’t anxious, then he will be less likely to exhibit behaviours – so many variables.

    It could be because of sensory need. The wording seems to indicate that he likes shredding. If so, then something needs to be found that gives the same sensory feedback. Possibly paper, but that not might work, if he actually likes the feel and sound of ripping fabric. So, find something he likes to rip, that’s cheap – like fabric remnants or old cuddly toys, from the likes of charity shops and car boots.

    He needs distraction – something he likes better or as much, be it an iPad, or something, and/or things he can shred, that that would give the same sensory feedback. Without knowing him, it’s hard to say.”

    • Mike,
      Thank you for this helpful response, and please thank your daughter as well. She reinforces comments from others here that the way forward is to address the cause rather than try to alleviate the effects. I am sure that is right, and I assume that the health professionals will already have pursued that route (although I have no information beyond that quoted in the original query). In any case, it convinces me that this is not a job within Remap’s area of expertise.


  2. I’m not sure whether the problem includes him removing his seat belt. If so we have had numerous instances where a very simple solution lies in a buckle cover that can only be removed by carers or emergency services. I can give you details of this if it would help.

    • Patrick,
      Thank you for the suggestion, but the enquiry (which is quoted in full in the second para of my question and so provides no more information) specifies that the client is an adult with no physical disability, so I don’t think a lockable seat belt would be an acceptable risk.
      Nevertheless, I will pass the whole of this thread back to the social worker so the suggestion may be helpful to her.


  3. Another off-the-wall thought depending on the parent’s situation – buy a cheap runaround, pick up a second set of door cards and a rear seat off ebay or from a scrappy, and let him do his worst to whichever set is in the poorer condition – and keep the other set for when the car is sold on.

    A S/H rear seat/door cards for something old but still popular like a Mk4 Golf, is gonna be under £100. Might even prove cheaper for the whole car than repairing the interior on a modern vehicle at dealer rates.

  4. I do not have any magic solutions just a word of warning about multiple air bags. There may well be a risk of damaging air bag locations typically seat sides, head lining, dash board, I don’t think these areas should be covered let alone damaged.
    Two thoughts come to mind London Taxi,’s seem to have interiors that are well made, I have seen polycarbonate “enclosures” that go behind the driver are designed to protect the driver of a car based taxi that would at least ensure driver was not distracted.
    I know restraints are difficult but seat belts are mandatory and you do have to consider the safety of other road users if driver is distracted.

  5. Hi I seem to remember one of the projects some years ago was an ‘active child’ who was eventually encase in abs plastic (in simple terms!) the sides, roof and between him and other passengers were made of ABS so that when he lashed out he hit the plastic… not sure if this would help… must have been over five years ago. someone may still have a record pf the project

    • Hi Jim – there is certainly a project (p15 2006 year book) relating to a child with autism who was inclined to lash out. It was by the Leeds Bradford group – and consisted of removable polycarbonate screens. But that project was limited to protecting the front seat passengers.

      I can’t personally recall any projects where there was any greater degree of enclosure, and it would certainly raise issues of how to secure such a structure in place, what might happen to it in the event of an accident, whether it might exacerbate the underlying causes etc.


  6. I feel a need to get involved with this project if only to suggest my gut feeling as to why the client is displaying this behaviour. After some 56 years on this planet I am finally coming to terms with the fact that I am a functioning mild autistic with as-purges and dyslexia. When i was a child I displayed many classic autistic traits including walking round with a dummy on each finger and swapping from one to the other in rotation as each became warm in my mouth. If I am to turn my perception of how this behaviour would feel for me I get the following feelings.
    Any behaviour I undertook as a child was done to give me comfort the autistic part of me could easily get lost in the comfort and safety of any repetitive behaviour. Rocking whilst making repetitive noises could occupy me fully for hours, It was only something in me that refused to be locked in to a repetitive endless loop that stopped me becoming forever lost. I fear that the candidate has never been able to break the enveloping feeling of being in a safe place his actions create for him, as an aside I also believe that OCD is the adult manifestation of left over autistic traits from childhood.
    So if we assume that the shedding of objects gives him comfort or even pleasure the relative difficulty of each objects resistance to shredding also display an embedded need for a challenge.
    How do we redirect his attention to objects of little value and with time possible break the loop.
    I would try to get hold of large catalogues like the old Great Universal Stores used to make. Maplin may have a supply of out of day catalogues they could let you have free of charge.
    Shredding out of date catalogues would present little hardship as they could still be recycled and a pile of the same catalogue to shed would play onto the repetitive nature Autism likes.
    Having misdirected the behaviour and not knowing the full extent of the candidates disability I wonder if the shredded paper could be used for animal bedding where the candidate could see a use of his labours in the real world. I must confess to be grabbing at straws as I have no idea how or if it is possible to break into a truly autistic persons mind and bring them back out. I don’t remember what the pivotal factors were in my childhood that took me away from becoming increasingly introspective and wonder if my diatribe is nothing but a wast of air. But I feel the need to try and help and this was all I could do whit what little insight i may have.
    Hope it all works out. I think my advise it based on the philosophy that you cant stop a runaway car by jumping in front of it and demanding it stops. But with enough redirection of its progress you can redirect its progress to miss the cliff edge by running in parallel with it.
    Best Of Luck
    and All My Best Wishes in your efforts to help this young man.


    • Gary,
      Thank you for this input. Your experience is helpful in giving me a feel for what might be behind the problem, and I shall certainly pass it on to the social worker who raised the problem with me. However, taken together with the other replies to my question, it convinces me that this is not a problem for Remap.


  7. Do we know what behavioural therapists have said about the possible causes John? If the OT has the protection of the vehicle in mind, that’s going to be very difficult esp. given his age. i.e. its possible to fit heavy duty covers and the like to protect upholstery, but a 20yr old minded to do so, is soon going to remove those, and/or could simply move to damaging things like door panels, head lining etc. where there is no realistic way of stopping it that springs to mind.

    A tendency to damage often comes with a tendency to throw things to damage them – so I wonder if the issue is as simple as boredom through it not being safe for others in the vehicle for him to have anything to keep him occupied? If so, that’s something we *might* be able to help with if his parents can articulate what sorts of things alleviate the behaviour. i.e. we might be able to secure something down in way that makes it feasible for him to have it in the vehicle.

    • Ian,
      Thank you for your suggestions. As yet, I have very little information about the detailed problem. The referral that came to us stated simply “Client shreds items of everyday use in particular the inside lining of Motability vehicles. He has no physical disability and is able to move around freely. He has damaged a number of vehicles which is an expense he cannot maintain.”
      It seems that the primary worry is the damage to Motability vehicles – which rules out the option of acquiring a cheap runabout. However, the wording also suggests that he is prone to shredding items of any type – which makes it very hard to see a solution.
      The fact that he has no physical disability rules out solutions like ‘semi-locked’ seat belts, and in any case doesn’t address his behaviour other than in the car.
      It seems to me – especially seeing the other suggestions that have been made – that this is actually a problem for the psychiatric profession rather than Remap.

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