Poop – and raising a child with Autism

Odd title you may be thinking but the honest truth is: “when you are a parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder – poop is a real thing in your life”!

Sure we all do it and like many topics this particular one is a topic that few ever discuss. Whilst we all know that being a parent of a new born entails dealing with horrendous nappies and on motherhood groups one often hears of new parents asking about colors,textures and smells or constipation… This is pretty much where it stays. In baby-hood!

But for the parent raising a child with Autism poop is a very real everyday thing! We have to think about it, talk about, strategies about it and more often than not clean it – and I. do not mean just their diapers. Poop problems can last forever if not dealt with appropriately.

Some common problems that parents with children on the spectrum deal with can include but are by no means limited to:

  • Fecal smearing – this is a problem many children on the spectrum have and so many parents are often embarrassed because they think that they are alone and that there is something wrong with their child. PLEASE don’t be embarrassed- you are not alone!
  • Problems toilet training particularly when it come to pooping. It can be anything from a total refusal to poop in anything other than a nappy right down to getting a child to properly wipe and clean themselves.
  • Constipation and diarrhea- intestinal gut problems are even listed as a diagnosis criteria for autism spectrum disorder
  • Accidents even after a child is independently toilet trained for absolutely no particular reason and the one that freaks parents out the most is eating everything the child sees which regrettable can at times involve poop.

My advice as an expert “poop-scooper” autism mommy is to get help. Don’t ignore the constipation or diarrhea problem and don’t rely on over the counter remedies. These more often than not cause more problem and it will not be a long term solutions.

Deal with the Fecal smearing when it first starts. Don’t think the problem is going to go away. Put that little man (or princess) into a onesie and make sure they can’t access their bottoms. I even made my own child leotards – similar to baby-grows and after a month of wearing them under her cloths the smearing stopped.

  • Consult with a professional because our tiny humans can get so bunged up that they get very sick. Keep a poop diary. Know your child’s bowel movements like you know your own. Know what foods cause discomfort and what will stop their tummies from moving because many of our children are unable to speak or communicate effectively they rely on you as their parent to help them with an issue they do not understand.
  • Understanding autism and that your child may be so distracted by their affinity that they actually do not even realize that they have had an accident will help you to avoid embarrassment in social situations.
  • Put a proper toileting schedule in place and stick to it. Because your child may get destracted by sensory input and they will need to be reminded to go.
  • Schedules can be very helpful. Put a visual schedule in the bathroom to help remind your child to wipe themselves, pull up their pants and wash their hands. Without this schedule many steps can (on will) be skipped.
  • Don’t fight with your child over toilet issues – they most likely have bathroom anxieties and the way you deal with problems and accidents can make or break a future of successful pooping…

I know it sounds pretty daunting but I promise you that the day you accept that your child is not being deliberately defiant or naughty many of your challenges will soon subside.

Or … like in my case they will because a managed but very real part of our daily living. And it is OK! A day without touching poop is just not a complete day!

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.