Lumi ho’o pau pilikia—that’s Hawaiian for “bathroom”. Literally translated, it means the room where you go to get rid of your troubles. The bathroom is the source of many troubles for families dealing with autism, and my family is no exception. Potty training has been consuming the past year of our lives--actually 14 months, but who’s counting? We’ve put Ryan on the toilet for up to 40 minutes at a time, and although he will usually pee, we have had only sporadic success getting him to poop on the toilet.
We’ve tried a reward system, social stories, holding “potty parties”, even going so far as making a movie of him “pooping” on the toilet, with a tootsie roll left over from Halloween playing the starring role.
I’ve been told to record what time he usually goes, and then start putting him on the toilet around that time. What makes this so difficult—pardon the indelicate language--is Ryan’s tendency to poop five or six times a day, and whenever the mood strikes him.
He has recently made the connection that poop goes in the toilet. Hooray, you might think, but no…he now tries to put it in the toilet with his hands, making a mess that I’m sure many an autism parent is familiar with. I’ve washed down the walls and cabinets, cleaned the floors, and given Ryan baths multiple times in the same day. And that’s only when I’m lucky enough to find him immediately following one of his self-care attempts. I’ve found poop smears in some pretty unlikely places, when he’s tried to get the mess off his hands. I’ve talked to enough autism moms to know I’m not alone in this, and a well-timed glass of wine can really help!
So, I’m hopeful…perhaps the whole process will click for him one day in the near future. I look forward to that day with great anticipation, not just because I’m so very tired of cleaning up poop, but for Ryan’s independence. We were out at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago, and Ryan had pooped several times before we left, so I figured we were safe. But the best-laid plans and all that…I took him into the ladies’ room and cleaned him up, but I had a vision of me doing this with an 8 or 10 year old Ryan, and I wondered how he would feel under those circumstances.
And secondary to that, how would I feel? I’m already conscious of people looking at Ryan when he’s making sounds (he doesn’t speak) and wondering why they get no response when they try to talk to him, or wave to him. I’m not ashamed of his autism, and I often will take the time to do an autism mini-Public Service Announcement with strangers who approach us, but sometimes I just want to pretend I have a “normal” little boy and go about my business. I confess to feeling some guilt about that, but I’m only human.