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Craptastrophes and Holiday Travel

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And so it begins. The holiday season is landing in our laps, but that’s not always exciting when it comes to family members on the spectrum. Ever since an unnamed airline asked us NEVER to return when my son was three (NINE years ago, and pre-diagnosis) we haven’t done much holiday traveling. A small, manageable road trip here and there, but nothing to write to Reader’s Digest about.

Guess what! This year I’m taking my kiddos to New York/New Jersey for the holidays! Crazy, yes? I haven’t been home since right after 9/11 and boy have I been craving good pizza and bagels. Also, my kids’ two internet besties live in the area and they want to meet them in person. Yes, I’ve seen them on Skype video chats, they’re actually real :)

What’s this have to do with poop? Ha, you may regret you asked. OR, you may be in a similar situation and now you will know that you’re not alone. We’ll see…

If you’ve been following the Blog for a while you may recall that my son suffered four months of diarrhea with “unknown” cause. After some extensive (out-of-pocket expenses!) testing, some genius finally figured out that he had a bowel obstruction. That poor child went through so much when it came to all the tests he was subjected to as well as the final cleaning of the pipes. I, too, became a changed woman in regard to the things I’ve seen and handled.

Since that experience, he’s been TERRIFIED to go. He exhibits avoidance behavior to the max when it comes to this topic. His muscles hold it in by default until the body takes over and results in light “elimination notification” that he’s holding a lot more. He holds it because he knows it will be a difficult and painful experience, which is self-perpetuating, of course – it’s a difficult and painful experience because he holds it. That coupled with the fact that if I’m not home to handle the “paperwork” he feels he has no option but to keep it in.

You can imagine the devastating implications this problem has on any kind of social life (thank goodness Skype doesn’t have smellevision capacity). We have tried every supplement and over the counter medication known to mankind. We have practiced sitting and pushing and routine and ritual and social stories and tricks and negotiations and rewards and punishments. We’ve tried “we can’t go to New York unless you learn how to poop.” But that’s not really fair.

As hard as this is for me, I can only imagine it’s tenfold for him. He knows it’s not the most desirable behavior, because he avoids coming out of his room every time he first has an issue. Or he walks backward (like I don’t know!) away from me to hide his bottom.

Overall, I’m not giving up! I will do what I do – research, experiment, keep soldiering on to make this a much better experience for him. BUT we are traveling for the holidays… so what do I need to consider as far as tools and resources for this situation?

You see, when he does finally go (which takes an Act of Congress and a lot of bribing), it involves a lot of bleach, a lot of wipes, medical gloves, several pair of boxer briefs, a shower, and a lot of, um… compacted product that isn’t willing to go where it belongs when the toilet is flushed. Yeah, it ain’t pretty. Between my poop scavenger hunts from the huskies in the back yard and my poor child’s digestive issues, I sometimes feel like Pyle in Full Metal Jacket (I AM in a world of S**T!). 

What do we need to pack for out of town potential craptastrophes? Do they make travel-sized plungers? Should we re-invest in Men’s Depends just in case? There are no “how to potty train your teenager” resources available, unfortunately. I’m not sure what lies ahead (and you probably don’t care to be updated, ha ha) but I want very badly for this to be a fun and successful trip for my son, not to be remembered with any kind of embarrassment or troubles. I imagine I will focus on getting the desired result for him while we’re at base camp each night (the hotel).

Have any of you had craptastrophes after an appropriate age? What helped? How did it affect travel plans? I love hearing from you, so share the poop… I mean SCOOP by commenting below!

autism potty training

Autism, Sensory Processing Issues and Potty Regression

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.

Until recently.

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!