Sunday 1 September 2013

Mixed Feelings For School Toileting

We had a meeting last week with Alex's new teacher and she said she wants to concentrate on getting him reliably toilet trained this year.  Ever since, I've been struggling with mixed feelings.

It would be a huge relief if he could be trusted to go to the bathroom on his own.  I keep telling myself that it is my pride which is insulted by the idea that someone else could accomplish this but I don't think that's it.

I have struggled with toilet training for over six years.  I was breezily assured by the professionals in his behaviour program that they had never seen an autistic child take more than a few months to become completely toilet trained, provided they had full parental support.  (To contrast for those that don't know, most neurotypical children can be toilet-trained within a few days.)  This seemed like a reasonable claim and, hey, they were the professionals.  We rolled up our sleeves and prepared to work.

Two years later, despite complete compliance with their program, he was still not trained.  They admitted their bafflement but held off from implying it was our fault.  (I've always wondered if they changed their assurances or if we were lumped in with unsupportive parents.)

I've taken Alex to specialists and we know that there is no physical reason for his lack of control.  Indeed, when it is important to him, he often displays complete control.  But the rest of the time, he is simply not interested. 

I've admittedly been in a holding pattern with Alex over the last year while I concentrated on my other son.  Maybe my resistance is guilt over that.  No one likes to wonder if they stopped short of the finish line to rest.

But again, I don't think so.  Looking at our actions over the last six years, I think we have explored every viable option and complied with the treatment plans.  Meanwhile, we've also installed a sprayer on our toilet to deal with the daily flow of soiled underwear.

I think I'm angry about a system which has left me hanging in the wind.  I angrily wonder how many of the specialists who encouraged us to "just keep trying" would cope with an endless stream of accidents to be cleaned from floors, furniture and clothing.

I'm trying not to prejudge.  The school has done wonders with getting Alex to eat solid food, something I would have firmly put on the not-bloody-likely spectrum.  And if he's finally ready, then they might have success. 

All I know for sure is that there is a limit to how much of this any person can reasonably ask anyone to endure with a polite, supportive mask so that negative associations don't happen.  I'm going to need more than "if we're consistent and don't put him in diapers, he'll toilet train himself" because that ship has sunk for six years.

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