Monday 26 November 2012

Bedding Solutions

This is a topic I'm guessing a lot of parents whose children have autism will be familiar with.  Difficulty in toilet training.  There are lots of places to get tips on toilet training autistic children but not a lot of suggestions about what you can do in the meantime to cope.

Our older son is not toilet trained.  And we have a real challenge at night because he's outgrown the largest commercially available diapers but is still too small for adult diapers.  (And for the record, Goodnights do not absorb more than a trickle.)  So we have a lot of bedwetting incidents.

This would be less of a problem if he didn't also like to shred plastic.  We tried a fitted plastic sheet from the drugstore.  Torn off and torn up within twenty minutes.

Next we tried a bed condom, a plastic sheath which wraps around the whole bed and zips up the side.  That foiled him initially for a few months but then he got the hang of destroying them and could do it less than five minutes.

We ordered a medical mattress which we thought would have a rubberized covering instead of fabric.  Turns out it was just vinyl which tore along the sewn seams almost instantly.  I taped up the seams with duct tape.  He broke new seams and started shredding the vinyl.

New tactic.  I wrapped the bed in a plastic tarp.  This actually lasted almost six months.  Then he started shredding the tarp.

I got a new tarp, wrapped up the bed and this time cross-hatched it with duct tape so that he couldn't tear more than a two inch section (which I thought would be easily repairable).  That bought us another few months of peace until he figured out how to destroy it.

Channelling my inner Red Green (or Mythbuster) I wrapped the whole bed in duct tape.  For the record, it takes 3 and a half rolls of duct tape to cover a twin size bed.  That bought us eight months of peace.

Finally, I had to accept that I could not protect the mattress from liquid.  So I had to shift to a new tactic: washable bedding.

We have three kingsize duvets that we fold down over his bed.  Not as comfortable as a mattress but able to be washed in the washing machine.  When one is soiled, it gets tossed in the wash and another pulled out of the closet.  It can be a little tricky and means a lot of laundry but for now, it's working.

Most of the time we only have to replace one duvet a night but the other night we ran through all three.  I was debating the risk of running the washer and waking up the kids versus potentially running out of bedding.  In the end, I decided to take the quiet road and luckily we didn't lose the third duvet until it was time to get up anyway.

We've tried restricting his liquids before bedtime.  We've tried getting him up late at night to go in the toilet.  But it's an inescapable truth, the only real solution is going to be to get him properly toilet-trained, a process which has been ongoing for four years with progress measured with snail-like speed.  We'll keep going.  No one has ever claimed we lacked for stubbornness.  But we also accept this is not something we can white-knuckle through.  It will be a part of our lives for a long time.

I thought this list of ideas might be useful for other parents in the same boat.  But I think the most useful suggestion I can give is: do what you need to do in order to be able to keep your cool when dealing with a mess.  Success depends on positive experiences and it doesn't take much to frighten or upset your child.  So figure out what you are going to be okay dealing with and plan around that.

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