Sometimes, living with a child on the spectrum is delightful. Sometimes it is surprising or unexpected. Sometimes it can be downright disgusting. Let us discuss The Big P. P can stand for many things, but in this case it stands for poop. I have never met a parent of a child on the spectrum who could not chime in with a poop horror story. Yes, we love our kids to the moon and back but not their poop!
As I have discussed before some of our kids are sensory seekers and some are sensory avoiders. Sensory seekers have an insatiable need to touch, feel, smell, and taste almost everything and sadly, this includes poop. Fecal smearing is very common in ASD. Clean up of aforementioned fecal smearing is very common for ASD parents. When this trait of ASD cropped up in our household I was both disgusted and ready to die of embarrassment. My husband and I were both revolted; Boo Bear was not bothered at all.
Lots of kids on the spectrum have gut issues. Sometimes this can be remedied by diet, sometimes it is just the nature of the beast. I have found that as Boo has grown, many of his GI problems have abated. Many of our kids are slow to toilet train. Often, they are just unaware of the sensation that they have to go. Getting your child to do what he/she needs to do in the toilet can takes patience and time, and I am talking about years of patience and time. Boo was two weeks shy of his 14th birthday before he suddenly decided that he was trained. We had been working on this for years, but I had really given up hope that he would ever be reliably trained. Well, my boy is full of surprises. The road to this point, however, was not a pretty one. During the day Robert or I would watch him like a hawk for certain furtive behaviors and take him to the potty at very regular intervals. We kept him in pullups and had a pretty good idea of the schedule of his bladder and bowels. This was tolerable. Night time, however, was a whole different issue. It was a rare night that Boo did not wake up at zero dark hundred, fill his pullup, and smear poop. The results were horrific. There is a reason he has minimal furniture in his bedroom. My husband, Robert, is the unsung hero of poop cleaning. My work starts earlier than his by at least 90 minutes, so he is the one who gets the household up and running in the morning. He is the one that got to deal with cleaning up Mr. Boo and the bedroom floor. We went through a lot of mops. In short, it was revolting.
So, what does one do with a child that poops everywhere except the toilet? You outsmart them and sometimes this can be hard. We all know that our kids are not stupid. The first step is keeping your child in his pajamas at night. The first thing we tried was putting him in sleepers backward and using duct tape to cover the zipper. This is enough to deter some children but not all. It certainly was not enough to deter Boo. The next step was to put him in sleepers backward, put duct tape over the zipper, tucking it over the top in the back, and then for good measure, putting a strip of duct tape around his waist. Then, we would put a tight fitting t-shirt over the whole ensemble. This also worked for a while, but was by no means perfect. Obviously, something else was needed. Enter the harness. Robert is an engineer by trade and a problem solver by nature. He drew a picture of a harness, much like the harnesses you use on little kids who ride the school bus, and showed it to a friend. She has an industrial strength sewing machine and was able to create a harness with straps out of nylon strapping. So, now we had a new bedtime outfit. We would put Boo in his backward fitting sleepers, put the harness snugly on top of that and top it off with a close fitting t-shirt. Just to assure my readers, the harness was not at all uncomfortable. Many ASD kiddos like deep pressure and the pajamas, the harness, and the close fitting shirt provided that. Poop smearing was prevented! The mop and duct tape were mostly retired and everyone, except maybe Mr. Boo, was much happier.
So where are we today? Though Boo is day trained, he is not 100 percent reliable at night. Eventually he outgrew the harness. About this time, we discovered special needs clothing, often known as anti-strip clothing. I mentioned these in a previous entry. These clothes, though a little bit pricey, are amazing! At this time, Boo wears normal clothes and underwear during the day and is fairly trustworthy. I cannot say this about him after nightfall. So, when he goes to bed he wears the following: a pullup with a pair of underwear on top to prevent any possible leaks; one pair of footed pajamas, with the zipper going up the front; one anti-strip jump suit with the zipper going up the back. At the top of the zipper is a piece of material that snaps over it, to discourage unzipping. Finally, on top of this, he wears a snug fitting shirt. The first few nights of this outfit he was very put out. He was not uncomfortable, he was just angry that his strip tease and poop smearing activities had been thwarted. We had several very loud and grumpy nights before he accepted his fate.
I would love to tell you that at this point our evenings are quiet and free of fecal smearing. For the most part this is correct. The outfit we happened upon through trial and error really works. He still sometimes has accidents in the night and needs to be changed, but the poop stays in the pullup. This does now mean, however, that he is a peaceful sleeper. Sometimes, he can fall asleep immediately and stay that way for 11-12 hours. Other times, he is up all night, hooting and flapping and bouncing off the walls. Like many of his autistic peers, he does not have a regular sleep cycle. In another entry, I will talk about sleep; getting your child to sleep and getting some much needed sleep yourself. In the mean time, please chime in with your poop horror stories, your solutions to fecal smearing, or both.