I remember when my 20-year-old son was diagnosed with Autism when he was 4 years old and all the duties and responsibilities that came along with accepting his diagnosis. In addition to his doctors informing me on the next steps and what specialists and therapists to consider, but never have they warned me or educated me about possible poop smearing, and to be honest, I never brought it to their attention. I just dealt with it! I did not know what to expect from raising a child on the spectrum, but never have I thought I would be surprised with poop presents from him handing it to me or walking around our apartment to find it smeared on the floor or walls and I hate to say it, but even in his mouth, yes, pica issues! Trust me, there was a lot of runs to the bathroom for teeth brushing! I could not understand why he was doing this except the fact that it could have been due to sensory stimulation. After months of dealing with these poop behaviors, I realized that one day he just STOPPED. The fecal smearing nightmare came to an end, just of the blue. Good news is that if your experiencing this with your child, you are not alone and many other families and have survived this part of the journey. We just do not speak of it much and feel helpless.
As busy and overwhelmed parents, we usually do not take the time or little moments to observe and research the reasoning to some of these behaviors. Temple Grandin said it best, “We can’t manage what we don’t measure.” There are several reasons smearing may happen, and these three variables may contribute to fecal smearing behaviors:
• Medical problems
• Sensory challenges
• Behavioral factors
These three variables are great to consider for all unwanted or unexplained behaviors and are the first steps in reducing or eliminating the behaviors. Keeping track of when the smearing happens in a written log of what happens before, during, and after each incident will help and speaking with a specialist (psychologist, functional behavioral doctor or behavioral therapist) to help identify the root of the fecal behaviors may be of tremendous benefit.
Although it has been years since I had to deal with this type of behavior, I still remember what it was like and the struggle, frustration, and pain of constantly redirecting my son’s behaviors; the excessive cleaning or hiring cleaning companies to help remove the stains.
With having a clothing line of adaptive wear, I had to create a product to better help eliminate smearing or easy access to diapers/undies. Adaptive and tight-fitting clothing are another route to take that limits access and keep little one’s hands free from getting to their poop. I came up with a concept to make one piece jumpsuits that looks like stylish clothes and can be worn during the day without kiddos being uncomfortable and not able to dig in their diapers/undies- I hope these inescapable, hand-free onesies are a better and convenient way to make parents and caregivers lives much easier!