Friday, May 22, 2009

Raising Denver Part 5: Messes

Potty training. My three daughters had small challenges when it came to this, but Denver topped them all. You wouldn't think in a million years, looking at him now, that he used to smear. Feces play is it's own phenomenon, and is very common in spectrum kids. It's a matter of texture more than anything and it's mind numbing.

We tried to keep him from doing it with different kinds of pajamas or plastic pants. All failed. The messes were never small and once or twice required hours of work to remove. We found one-piece jammies that stopped him until he learned zippers. That's when we started using safety pins through the loop of the zipper to keep that from happening. How could such a sweet child do some thing so grotesque?

Texture, like I said before, its all about how the texture is in the fingers. Children of this bizarre habit don't find discomfort in a messy diaper. Rather, they find fascination. The strange texture and the fact it leaves a mark enthralls and almost entertains. To truly understand, you have to stop thinking of the material as what you know it is. Your child has no clue or not enough understanding of what a toxic substance is. Autism causes the nerves for sensory relation to be hyperactive. Add all of that together and you can see how a toddler can be so amazed.

Getting Denver to stop simply took time and him finally potty training. Unfortunately potty training was not on his list of things to do. We could get him to sit on his potty chair for a short time, but sitting still for very long or at all just didn't work. We discovered that the flushing of the toilet scared him as well. There's a cool hollow feeling to a commode that I've discovered some autistic children don't enjoy. I wondered if that could have been another reason for difficulty. There was also a negative experience with an automatic toilet in a store that set him back months.

So what finally got my son to use the potty? Other kids. Denver fully potty trained by seeing other kids do it. This won't work for every autistic kid out there and there are those who haven't potty trained until past 10 years old. It can be done however and that's subject for another blog.

Denver had another habit that put us in a difficult spot. He loved to dig holes. You might think that's no big deal except that he would dig those holes in the walls, mattresses, toys, clothes, and anything else. If something had a hole in it, he would make it a super hole. Nick in the wall? Now you can put your head through it. I tried to find better places for him to dig holes, namely outside. Dirt or sand kept him busy for hours. Sometimes he couldn't stop himself, nearly falling asleep on the spot because he didn't want to quit.

Finally, he gave us one more set of scares by jumping off furniture and objects. By the time he did this, however, he was starting to recognize pain. I'm glad for that, because we might not have caught this injury if he hadn't. I don't remember what his mother and I were doing in our separate sections of our home. I only remember the scream. I had never heard such a noise from him before. We ran to his room where we found him sitting on the floor. At first we couldn't see what happened, but then he showed us the bottom of his foot. He jumped off his bed and landed barefoot on a die-cast metal airplane. It put a hole in the bottom of his little foot about a fourth of an inch long. We scooped him up and took him to the emergency room. They cleaned him up, trimmed a little bit of fatty substance dangling from the wound, and put superglue on it.

We had to keep him from picking at that and he hated shoes, can you imagine? Well, I promise part six won't be anything so gross, but it's true that this is something families on the spectrum have to deal with. I hope it brings new light to the life of our spectrum families.

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