This is not a fun topic for me to discuss, but I’m hoping that together we can help each other. If you are experiencing anything like this at home, regardless of your child’s age, you have my utmost empathy and understanding.
My son had delays in potty training, which is certainly not uncommon for a child with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. Truth be told, I have less detailed memories of those days as a single parent with chronic sleep deprivation, but we got through it. Not that my situation has changed, but things seem a bit more manageable with older children! Or maybe I’ve just matured
He’s never been able to “take care of the paperwork” on his own, and that is challenging enough because I’m not here 24/7 to tend to his bottom. He has been known to hold it until I’m home from work, which creates some issues with the routine ebb and flow of daily potty experiences. Additionally, his diet is not 100% gluten free and he has never had a pleasant bathroom experience. The other part of the equation is due to his sensory processing disorder: he is unable to feel the sensation of having to go until it is absolutely the last second before an emergency. We have been working on this diligently for years with exceptional progress.
Justin will be 11 this month. About three months ago I noticed that he stopped going. Every few days I would find soiled boxer briefs in his closet or under his bed. Ruh-roh.
I immediately bought hygiene social stories, made it ABSOLUTELY clear that I was not mad at him and he would not be in trouble, and encouraged him to try using the bathroom on a regular schedule with visual supports.
It worked for a little while, and then things took a turn for the worse. He hadn’t gone for about a week and I made him sit down and try before I went to work one morning. When he was done I saw blood. A frightening amount of it.
Luckily, we ruled out the really scary stuff at the hospital and discovered it was due to impacting. More talks, more social stories, more diet adjustments… I thought it scared him into being more diligent with his potty experience. He has made it clear that not being able to clean himself embarrasses him, so I believed he had the capability and awareness to make certain choices regarding the bathroom.
Still he is regressing. Now he goes in his boxers and cleaning him up has become a physical issue. He is bigger than me. I am very careful to avoid attaching negative emotions to this experience and always try to be 150% supportive, but it is harrowing.
Why he is afraid to go
I believe that sensory issues are still playing a role, but there has to be other stuff going on to foster this behavior. His diet can always be improved. I’ve read that fear could stem from leaving a part of himself behind. And of course, overall it’s a long and painful experience for him.
For a child that can’t stand a speck of dirt on his hands, it bewilders me that he can sit in soiled and pungent undies with no issues. I won’t even tell you the details on how I had to sanitize his room. ACK.
You know me, I always have to have a plan of action when faced with a challenge! We’ve luckily ruled out medical concerns and reasons. I thought about buying adult diapers, but I feel like that would make it okay for him to keep doing this. So here is what we plan to try:
- More social stories
- Positive reinforcement
- An interval timer where he will try at set times to get him used to the routine again
- Continued tweaks to his diet
- More movement, including yoga
- Natural stool softener, such as flaxseed oil
I will keep you posted! What about you? Have you experienced this at home with your child (no matter what age)? What worked for you? Did anything make it worse? Share your stories by commenting below!