Warning — This post involves poop talk. I think others may be in the same boat that we were, so I felt it was my duty to share this post with the hope it brings sanity (and cleanliness) back to your decorated-in-crap (literally) house.
We’ve had our issues potty training our daughter Lily, who has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.
Confession time — potty training, or lack thereof, is probably the most disliked part of parenting for me.
Two of my kids were fairly easy to train, at least in comparison to their siblings. Dasha, who’s adopted, arrived potty trained (thank you God!). The rest, well, suffice it to say they were low achievers in the art of using a toilet.
Autism, Down syndrome and other special needs can affect the way a child feels about bodily functions. They either go hog wild and embrace, touch, play, throw, smear — you get the idea — with what we find offensive, or you have the ones who are oblivious to it and wouldn’t care if they lived in diapers, Pull-ups or underwear the rest of their lives just as long as someone else dealt with the mess.
They really just don’t give a crap. We, the parents or the caretakers, go off the deep end trying to break the disgusting cycle while also doing the dirty work.
Lily has been “pee-trained” for a while now. It took a Fisher Price musical potty for it to click in her mind what peeing was all about. She needed to figure out the connection between the sensation of a full bladder and needing to go to the potty. The problem was she really didn’t care and it took months with a lot of stern voices and then elated cheering to see any results. Candy, cookies, stickers or other incentives didn’t work with Lily.
Once she became pee-trained, she then started using her nighttime “Goodnites” as her poop diaper. We couldn’t get her to achieve a bowel movement in the toilet, so she had no concrete visual experience to use as a reference for a long time. Until, surprise! One day, she did it.
I’m pretty sure I announced it on Facebook and most likely everyone within a mile radius heard my shout of joy that first time it happened. Sadly, afterwards it was hit or miss on using the toilet since she still favored using her “Goodnite” diaper at night for poop time.
We also started having poop accidents, or “Shitastrophes,” as we’ve been known to call them. These started when she got her spica cast off two years ago after dislocating her hip and needing major surgery. It’s like everything she’d learned about bathroom etiquette (which wasn’t much) before being stuck in that full body cast and bedridden for four freaking months was completely forgotten and we were back to square one.
It was awful. To help you understand a little better, I should mention that Lily doesn’t call us for anything. Ever. I’ve never heard her say, “Mommy come here,” or “Mommy help me,” so obviously, she would never call us to say, “Yoo-hoo, I’ve pooped!”
There were multiple incidents of butt-scooting down the carpeted stairs in a leaking diaper full of poo. An even better version was her going poo on the potty and then butt-scooting down the stairs, leaving a skid mark the length of our staircase, to share the good news of her going “poopy potty” with a big smile on her face.
Sometimes, we’d find her sitting on one of our leather couches bare-cheeked, playing on her iPad and oblivious to the stench and nastiness penetrating our furniture. Other times, she’d poop on the potty, get off without wiping and walk in her room to put on a new pair of undies without a word. She’d then go through four or five pairs of undies because they kept getting dirty. She’s also famous for dropping her drawers, going poop on the potty and climbing back in bed sans panties. She’ll then wait until I find her with poo streaks on her sheets and say, “Poopy?” with a grin the size of Texas.
To say I handled these “Shitastrophes” with grace, serenity and calm would be a big fat lie. Lily now holds her ears when one of these events happens because I guess I’ve been a bit loud while facing an enormous cleanup. We’ve actually replaced her bedroom and the upstairs hall’s carpeting with hardwoods to ease the cleanup.
Then came my salvation.
The “Poopy Button” (that’s what we’re calling it) was suggested by one of our developmental teachers who comes to our house to work with three of our kids on academics. I was ranting about another incident regarding poop and one of them said I should get one of those wireless door bells and put the chime down on the first floor and the button next the toilet. I thought it sounded kinda crazy and doubted Lily would understand what we wanted her to do.
We purchased one reasonably-priced remote doorbell ($15-20?) at Lowe’s or Home Depot (I forget which place) and installed it. Her Print Shop savvy daddy made a cute little sign with a picture of her beloved Barney on it to place next to the Poopy Button. We then showed it to her, demonstrated how it worked and waited for her to poop one night on the toilet. Once she went we rang the doorbell. Even Lily could hear it from where she’s sitting on the potty, and we can hear on the first floor. We praised her for pushing the button and reiterated over and over how we wanted her to push the button every time she went poop.
We were very skeptical that she even understood our expectations.
Well, lo and behold, the next night, I heard the doorbell chime (which is set to a different tone than our front doorbell) and ran upstairs. There was Lily, proud and happy, sitting on the toilet waiting for me. As soon as she saw me she announced “Poopy!” To say I was ecstatic would surely be an understatement. Since that night she’s used the Poopy Button multiple times.
Our next goal will be mastering wiping, but for now, I won’t gross you out anymore than I’ve already done with this post.
A version of this post originally appeared on Our Version of Normal.
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