Into everyone’s life, a little rain must fall. Sometimes, those “angry clouds” (as Jake calls them), have silver linings.
Last night it poured.
But after the torrent, we realized that a few things had gone better than expected.
I hope this doesn’t get too personal, but let’s talk potty training. Jake wasn’t fully potty trained until he was 8. He’s been continent for years, but not potty trained until 3 years ago. He had even progressed to the point where he’d seek out a pull up, put one on, hide somewhere, and then yell when he was finished. Getting him to deal with his own waste was a long, slow struggle.
Now, life’s pretty good. He’s 11, so he’s developing some of those pre-teen/teen privacy, spending time in my room, normal pulling-away-from-the-family activities that all kids go through. Actual normal development! We’re thrilled. Anyway, back to the story at hand. He will now lock himself in the bathroom for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. He always brings his Nintendo DS, and he gets the job done. What man doesn’t take a long time on his throne with a magazine? Again, further progress.
He does a better than average job cleaning up, but rarely flushes the toilet, and throws the toilet paper in the little trash near the toilet. The Lord giveth, and he taketh away.
Picture it, it’s about an hour before dinner and Jake’s been in the bathroom for a while. No biggie. All of a sudden we hear a slightly panicked cry from upstairs, “Mum-mum (his word for Beth) Help Me!” We ran upstairs, because the tone demanded running. We found that Jake had had some kind of … accident? Explosion? We’ll go with accident. It even appeared that he had tried to contain the calamity on his own, and only after failing, did he call for help.
This clearly wasn’t a toilet paper job. I’m not sure Bounty would have had it covered. Beth started drawing a bath, Jake’s usual method of washing up. I didn’t think that was such a good idea. All I could picture was tea. I told her to start the shower – a Jake game-ender. She started to beg against it, but quickly realized it was our only shot. We grabbed his swimming goggles after carefully removing his clothes (he still had his sneakers on and everything), and tried to coax him into the shower. He announced that the water was too hot, and we reduced the temp. It couldn’t have been more than 90 degrees in that shower but hey, to each his own. We got the goggle idea from my friend Wanda.
I still needed to get in there with a wash cloth and some shower gel, and I did most of the work while he dealt with the fact that he was in the shower. I don’t think the water ever ran down “over” his head, but he certainly backed into it far enough to allow me to take care of business.
After we had carted away the laundry, and Jake was climbing into his jammies, I realized that quite a few things had happened that until very recently, would not have seemed possible.
1. Jake tried to clean up his own mess.
2. He did so without vomiting or crying.
3. Only after giving it his best try, did he concede and ask for help. He’s usually very quick to give up and beg assistance.
4. He followed directions well and stayed pretty calm in a crisis.
5. He took a shower!
6. He de-escalated after the whole situation and stayed cool for the rest of the night.
I certainly hope this didn’t go too far over the line of over-sharing, but it was the lesson that presented itself.
To my fellow autism parents, take heart. Things may seem insurmountable, especially when your third grader uses pull-ups, and it may seem as though he’ll never do anything by himself, but with patience and consistency, anything’s possible. It probably won’t happen in the way you want, but things rarely go according to plan when autism’s involved. Take pleasure in the little things.
And Jake, Dad’s proud of you.