JKP author Kate Wilde, Director of The Son-Rise Program®, shares advice on a key problem area for parents raising a child on the autism spectrum.
“Feces, bowel movement, Number 2, stool, excrement are just a few of the many names we give to what everyone does…poop. Our children on the autism spectrum can be very protective about where and how they poop. They can push us away, preferring to poop by themselves alone in a corner. They can hold it in for hours and even days. Our children may pee on the toilet happily and easily but will only poop in a diaper. They may like to eat it or smear it. When it comes to poop our children can give us some interesting challenges to tackle. Below are two perspectives to adopt while we help them acquire the skill of pooping in the toilet.
1. Embrace the way your child poops or interacts with poop.
Some of you may be thinking. ‘That’s crazy—I can’t embrace poop—it is smelly and disgusting that’s just a fact.’ Well actually it’s not a fact but a perspective. Poop is neither disgusting nor is it wonderful, it is just poop. We then put our own perspective on it. We get to choose how we want to think about it. I worked with a lovely and lively boy with autism who would pick his poop piece by piece out of his bottom with his finger, then try and give it to the nearest person. As you can imagine, this was not well received by the people in his life. His parents, understandably, did not like it when he did this and dreaded his pooping each day. They felt like they had tried everything to help him change and nothing had made even the slightest difference. They visited my center, The Autism treatment Center of America®, we helped them first feel comfortable and embrace the way he pooped. When we worked with this boy everything we did with him came from a deep sense of embracing and loving him. The way he pooped was part of him also, so of course we embraced this too. When he picked some poop out of his bottom and offered it to us, we celebrated him and thanked him for giving us his poop and lovingly wiped his finger with a piece of tissue. We then told him that he could give it to us anytime and we would gladly wipe it off it finger. We did not run from it, or scold him, or tell him no, or put him in time out or ask him to do it differently. We embraced the way he did it. From this alone he stopped pooping in this way in just 1.5 days. It turned out that he was doing it because of the big reactions he was getting from the adults around him. Offering people his poop had also become a good way to get people to leave him alone. Once he realized that we were not going to leave, and we did not give the big “don’t do that” reactions he stopped. When we embrace something we move towards it and learn much more about it. It is the first step to finding reasons behind why our children are doing a particular behavior.
2. Your child is doing the best that they can.
At times you might think that your child is just being difficult or naughty. You might say to yourself, ‘Well if he can pee on the toilet then he can poop on the toilet,’ or ‘He knows I do not like it when he smears, he is just doing that to spite me.’ I understand that it may seem like that at times, but it really is not the case. A lot of our children have different sensory challenges, the way they experience the world through their senses is so different than ours. Pooping can be an intense sensory experience for us Neuro Typical adults—I can only imagine that it is a thousand times more intense for some of our children on the spectrum. Our children also have a lot of digestive challenges. If your child is a picky eater or limits their diet to only a few items, or has chronic diarrhea or constipation, these are signs of a possible digestive challenge. If this is the case for your child it could mean that they find the process of digesting and eliminating food painful at times. Their controlling ways around pooping could just be their way of taking care of themselves, and getting through the process in a way that is the easiest for them. It is not an attempt at being naughty or challenging your authority. Let go of any feelings that your child is being naughty or mischievous. This will allow you to view the situation with more clarity and possibly see what is really going on for your child so that you can help them in the best way.
With these two perspectives and attitudes, any action we adopt to help our children with their pooping challenges will have more clarity and be more effective. In my book Autistic Logistics, I not only share concrete step-by-step directions on how to deal with the pooping challenges mentioned above but also cover other toilet training topics, sleeping challenges, tantrums, hitting issues and many more everyday challenges we face while parenting our children on the autism spectrum.”
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