The ink was not yet dry on the presses when I wrote about telling my son he would have to clean his own poopy mess, if he had an accident.  I wrote how I left him with supplies, wipes and fresh clothes.  I said how this gave him renewed energy to head to the toilet on his own.  Well, that worked for three days.

Then, two separate times on Monday, he called me on my bluff.  The first time, I folded.  He “sharted”.  I cleaned him.  It was between therapy sessions in a half hour break while he was playing video games in the office.  Just before his second ABA therapist arrived – the new therapist – the one who has been with us for one week.

How about this toilet? Poor fish!

He walked by my office saying, “I want to go to the toilet with Jessica and then play Pole Position,”   Rewind.  I called him back.  I asked him to repeat himself.  Why would he ask to go to the toilet with Jessica?  Well, of course it was because I said I would not clean him, but Jessica did not say she would not clean him.  And my kid is a baby lawyer, and a manipulative literalist.

Once I understood I heard him right, I knew he “had an accident”.  I took him to the toilet.  I cleaned him.  I sent him to therapy.

Maybe he thinks toilets are monsters like this?

We got home.  I asked if he needed to use the bathroom.  He said yes.  He peed.  After that, he went to the bedroom and I put his pull-up on for the night.  I was suspicious that he was not complete with his earlier “accident” and I didn’t want to spend half my evening cleaning more underwear.

He laid around, talking to himself, playing PacMan and then tried to go on the bed to lay down.  “What’s wrong?”  I asked.  He said he had to use the toilet.  He asked me to come.  This time, I told him he was on his own.  I knew he had another “accident”.

Oh Jeeves, could you handle this potty accident please?

He looked so abandoned.  He stared at me, pouty lip, big eyes.  I looked away.  He headed to the bathroom alone.  “Don’t come back until you’ve changed and cleaned yourself,” I said.  My heart was breaking.  Was I being too hard on him?  Is this terrible of me?  Or am I teaching him to do something on his own – something it seems – most of the autistic children his same age probably already knew too?

I told him not to come back until he’d pooped, changed and cleaned himself.  I was quite terrified of what I would see when I finally entered the bathroom, but determined to let him sort it out on his own.  About 45 seconds passed.  I heard the toilet flush.  He ran back into the room naked from the waist down and triumphantly announced, “You did it!” all smiles, head held high.

I know I need this set up.

“What did you do?”  I asked.

“You pooped!”  he announced, proudly.

“Did you throw away your pull-up?”  I asked.  He ran away to the bathroom.  “No!” he yelled back.  He was hurrying back to throw away the pull up which he said, he left on the floor.

Next, he came running back in and announced, “You threw it away!”

“That’s very good, “ I told him.  “Did you wipe?”

And yes, that’s where it all went bad.  He did no such thing.  And thus, the bluff broke down.  Let’s just put it this way.  I had to flush the toilet about five times to clean the mess.  Then, wash the boy’s hands to clean the rest of the mess.  And wash my hands, like Lady Macbeth.

Then, I told him to find a new pull-up, put it on and put on his shorts.

He pulled apart the pull-up and came to me with it deconstructed.

I got him another and let him put it on and put on his shorts.

Throughout this whole escapade, except for the wiping portions, he was proud as a peacock of all the steps he accomplished on his own.  Three seconds after being fully dressed, the wiping was forgotten, the pride remained and he was busy racing Ferraris on his Wii.

Daddy came home.  He went to play outside with his dad.  He came back in.  He tried to get daddy to go to the toilet with him.  Nope.  He went on his own.  Again.  He came out half naked again.  I sent him to get undies this time.  He dressed himself.

You see, that’s the thing around our house.  We don’t see much in the way of shy, embarrassed or shame.  We do see manipulation, accomplishment and pride.

So, my form of “punishment” in having to clean and dress himself, turned into believing in himself, growing up a tiny bit, finding the happy and forgetting the ugly wiping part.  He seemed to outsmart me at this game.

I’m just not strong enough yet to sit through watching him accomplish the wiping on his own – at least not so close to dinner time…

This is – as all posts – a snapshot in time.  Tomorrow, he could melt down or have twenty accidents or none.  There are no guarantees.  Just, for now, in this moment, a little boy grew up a tiny little bit yesterday.  And, around here, a tiny bit is a big deal.


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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11 Responses to Poop.

  1. Lisa says:

    That is a huge deal! Glad he had a sense of accomplishment..and that you figured out a way to help him with this issue without him having to lose dignity. That is huge for our kids.

    On a side note, I hope that he doesn’t have accidents today. As you know, I’m dealing with that “fun” right now..and it’s so exhausting. Hope it’s a good day for you and T!

  2. Flannery says:

    That is a really big deal. It’s so hard to know when to pull back and when to nudge them into being independent with a task. Too early and they’re too fragile to handle it, too late and they’ve learned to expect it to be done for them. I think you did the right thing, and it takes a lot of little pushes in that direction to get them there. Congrats to both of you!

  3. Allie says:

    I think your plan is fantastic! I always teeter on the edge of if something I am doing with Cam is right or not, but in the end, he usually proves to me that is so much more capable of doing things I didn’t think he could do. Sometimes it’s a rocky road getting there but in the end, they come out on top.

    Um…where in the world did you find so many scary toilet photos?

  4. This post is such a testament to how this process is so much more than just cleaning up messes and scheduling trips to the toilet. There are so many emotions, nagging doubts, questioning whether or not we are doing the right thing, etc. I think you are doing a great job and so is Tootles. Keep up the great work. You are fighting the good fight. 🙂

  5. Tootles is one tough cookie, but you are even tougher! This is HUGE and I loved how proud he was of himself. It’s such a delicate balance of encouraging independence and knowing when to walk away. You’re doing wonderfully! Aptly named post and those toilet pics are killing me! 🙂

  6. Well done. I totally get the not knowing if you’re “doing the right thing” bit. We have used the same kind of tack ticks with B on occasions. Good luck I hope your success continues 😊

  7. You’re right — and I ditto the comment you left on my blog… “of all the days where I couldn’t get to the computer to read up on my friends, why this one?”

    The personal accomplishment thing is huge. Just — wow. I’m jealous of you. Actually jealous of the clean-up, and the forgotten pull-up, and the lady Macbeth scrub-down. I know, I know… T is a year and a half older than LM, but I’m feeling the despair pretty hard core right now… you know what I’m saying.

  8. Good for T! And like you said, who knows what the next days will bring, but for now, for this moment, you celebrate! 🙂

    Must make a couple comments about your potties, though –

    The one with the fish? Lily would LOVE!!

    The one with the teeth and tongue? That is disgusting and I could never use it myself.

    The one with the wall of toilet paper? How handy that would be in my house full of girlies!

  9. Yay! I love that he found a way to turn a punishment into self-worth. Good for him! Pudding got the whole potty thing without much difficulty. She also likes to clean, so we’re fine there. Her brother, on the other hand has no interest. He doesn’t respond to any of the various reinforcers we’ve tried. Nor does he does he value social praise, or fear the stigma of being a baby. He runs away when he messes himself- doesn’t care how long he sits in it. Sometimes Pudding will take it upon herself to change him, which leads to the unholiest of messes. I know he is still young, and I should no more compare him to his sister in this area than I should in any other, but this is a stage of parenthood I’d really like to leave behind!

  10. You are so smart and patient. You are such a perfect mom for your son. I don’t know how you do it. Your blog is such an excellent way to look inside the life of a parent with a son with autism. A wonderful parent and wonderful son, I might add. 🙂 hugs.

  11. eof737 says:

    Karen… you are a saint. He did try though, no?

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