Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Hygenic Inchworm

When you have a child that is developmentally challenged, even the simplest of tasks become complicated.  By the age of 9 my parents were barred from the bathroom, they were practically barred from the postal code.  I had long since dealt with all my personal hygiene and grooming.  When I dreamed of having a daughter I thought she would be like me, sitting in front of her vanity table brushing her hair a hundred times each evening.

Enter autism.  

In a lot of long roads, hygiene has been one of the longest roads we've traveled on our journey. And if I never had an autistic child, I would never have dreamed that simple tasks like this could prove so difficult.  

Maya has sensory issues and that makes things difficult for her in a lot of ways.  For years, she never fussed about having a dirty face or hands and for a while didn't like to wash her hands and face at the sink for some unknown reason, she's still kind of iffy on soap.  Until the age of 7 I had to follow her around with a wet washcloth or wipes and just like a two year old, get her when she would stand reasonably still and wash her as best I could and I would pack a washcloth in her backpack at school every day in a Ziploc bag to get them to do the same.  Finally and with no explanation, Maya started washing her own hands at the sink and eventually washing her face.

That was a great day.  

From the age of 7 or so things have gotten easier.  It took a year, but Maya finally has learned how to brush her own teeth.  When I say it took a year, it took one year of me brushing her teeth for her, at the same time every night.  It took me cajoling her to get her to put the toothpaste on her brush (and that was the pink, bubble gum kind).  Once in a while if we were out of the kiddie toothpaste and I would dare put a dot of our toothpaste on the brush, she would scream bloody murder, spit like a coal miner and run from the room.

The first time that happened, she refused to brush her teeth for a week.

Picture me with my 6 year old, brushing her teeth while she was asleep because that's how it used to happen for years.  Screw the rinsing, actually my father-in-law the dentist says it is better not to rinse out the toothpaste right away but leave it on your teeth, I don't think he meant all night, but better toothpaste, than remnants of apple juice, right?  So after I'd carefully brush her, I'd take a washcloth and wipe out as much saliva as I could so my kid wouldn't choke in her sleep and I left it at that.

I did finally get her back in the bathroom and she does brush her teeth.  We've graduated to the soft mint kids toothpaste and one day I am sure we will get to the adult stuff.  Still, better every day with a less powerful toothpaste than once a week with adult toothpaste and my daughter doing her best impression of a Kentucky coal miner.

This is what hygiene is like for us.  Everything. Takes. Ages.

Potty training took the better part of two years until we were able to transition from just not wearing diapers and just having to change pants and underpants umpteen million times a day, to a point where she would go to the bathroom in a public place or someone else's house without it being a major issue.  Even today at 10 years old we have the occasional accident.  It took another 2 and a half years to get her to wipe her own tushy after.  I will still never forget the time, when Maya was 6 and we were still needing to drag her potty chair every where we would go, because we could never count on her being able to go to the bathroom in a strange toilet.  We were at a birthday party at our friends, celebrating the second birthday of their adorable son, who was as mischievous as he was cute, Maya was near meltdown mode and after 15 minutes of trying to get her to go to the bathroom, Leo ran out to get the potty chair.  The birthday boy was enamored with Maya and was following her everywhere, hovering somewhere around my legs.  Maya finally went to the potty and before I could wipe her and get her pants back up, the little birthday boy stuck both his hands in the potty and got pee all over his hands.  You never saw a party come to a screeching halt so fast in your life.  The birthday boy's mother was very gracious about the whole thing and really sweet, but that kid's name that day was forever changed to lady MacBeth.

So, while I know that parenting is a tough job no matter what cards you've been dealt, parents of children without special needs should be grateful every day of their lives when their 5 year old is not only getting up and getting dressed more or less on their own, but that you don't have to stop what you are doing upteen million times per day to wipe a butt or have to worry that some other kid is going to stick their hands in your kid's pee.

Good times.

Still, we've come a long way.

Up until just a few weeks ago, Maya had never once washed her own hair.  For months and months I have been trying to get her to do it.  We've had hundreds of stops and starts.  She has a cow and I retreat back into just doing it for her.  Still after about 6 months of going basically in circles, tonight Maya needed to wash her hair and didn't want to do it in the bathtub.  So, to try and push the issue (no, I wasn't playing Bejeweled and didn't want to quit), I told her to get in the shower and wash her body and I'd come along in a sec.  When I got there she didn't want me to open the shower doors so I just quickly put the shampoo in her hand and she washed and rinsed all on her own.  Conditioner on, a quick comb through from me and then rinse.

Almost all on her own.

Inch by microscopic inch baby.  That's how it goes with autism.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, that is how it goes! I am still bathing my 14 year old. Sigh.