Reading Time: 4 minutes 🙂
This article is evidence-based, verified by Dr. Ahmed Zayed.
Fecal smearing is a common issue amongst children with autism. This problem is not only embarrassing for the parents but also very stressful for the child. An autistic child facing this problem may smear feces on anything in sight, from walls to doors to furniture and other common objects.
Fecal smearing in children has three primary reasons: behavioral, sensory, and medical. Behavioral issues in an autistic child include the need for attention or not knowing what to do with the feces. Sensory problems arise from the lack of a sensory outlet, i.e., something that lets your child express creativity. Medical reasons include feeling pain and fearing toilets.
Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks to reduce fecal smearing in children with autism. Read on to find how you can deal with this upsetting problem.
How to Reduce Fecal Smearing in Children With Autism?
When you begin to realize the gravity of your child’s problem, you should not panic. An autistic child doesn’t always mean to create a terrible mess out of something as disgusting as feces. Because their behavior is unintentional, all you need to do is teach autistic children how to discard their feces properly and keep a check on them.
They undoubtedly require additional toilet training as compared to children who aren’t autistic, but the training pays off. Here are tips on toilet training for an autistic child that can help you deal with fecal smearing:
Check Your Child’s Bowel Movements
Children with autism sometimes find it challenging to go to the toilet when needed. This is because they often find it difficult to use the bathroom properly. For instance, a child with autism might try to wipe off feces on the wall instead of using toilet paper.
To ensure that your child doesn’t feel reluctant to use the toilet, you should perhaps try using wet tissue wipes. If your child wears a diaper, keep a thorough check on when your child soils the diaper. Replace the diaper as soon as it’s soiled. This will prevent autistic children from getting their hands inside the diaper and digging out the feces.
Cleaning the Feces
For even the most confident parent, cleaning your own child’s smeared feces can be nerve-wracking. No matter how much you care for your child, it is incredibly hard to stand fecal smearing. Luckily, you can use your child’s adaptiveness to ingrain how bad this habit is. First of all, you should attempt to make the child realize that smearing feces isn’t acceptable at all.
When your child smears feces, both of you should clean up the mess together. Use a detergent, gloves, water, bucket, cleaning cloth, and steam mop to clean up different surfaces. Once autistic children learn that their behavior is causing trouble for their parents and themselves, they will try to avoid smearing feces.
Block Access to their Diaper
When left unsupervised, it’s pretty easy for children to poke a hand inside their diaper and pull out feces. Even after you repeatedly tell them not to do so, autistic children find it difficult to follow orders. To make things more convenient for both yourself and your child, you should try limiting your child’s access to the diaper.
Some parents use duct tape to join the child’s shirt and pants together. Some dress their children in onesies, while some sew the top and bottom together. You can also use supportive stockings. They keep the diaper in place and make it difficult for your child to reach inside.
Whatever method you go for, just remember that you need to prevent your child’s access to the diaper. This way, your child won’t be able to get hold of the feces and smear it all over.
Use Sensory Outlets
One of the biggest reasons behind fecal smearing in children with autism is that they don’t find sensory outlets. There are plenty of alternatives that you can provide your child with to distract them from using feces for ‘creative’ purposes.
Your child may use paper-mâché, cheese-scented clay dough, silly putty, gloop, and even finger painting as alternatives. These alternatives will fulfill the sensory needs of an autistic child and provide a distraction from fecal smearing.
Visit a Doctor
There are also medical reasons behind feces smearing. To clarify your child is smearing feces because of medical reasons, you should consult a GP. Often, the pain inflicted from harsh toiletries causes children with autism to avoid using the bathroom. Instead, they smear their feces on any object in sight.
Sometimes, when autistic children are ill, they’ll feel like it’s too much of an effort to use the toilet. As a result, they’ll smear their feces wherever they are. This usually happens at bedtime, when children just smear their bedsheets with feces.
What Should You Avoid Doing?
The most critical thing for a parent to do in this situation is to keep cool. Keeping yourself focused is easier said than done, but it helps a great deal in solving the issue at hand. Here’s what you must avoid doing to prevent this issue from getting much worse:
Do not leave your child to clean the mess up
If you leave the cleaning up to your children, they’ll get the impression that it’s alright to smear their feces. They just have to clean up afterward, and then it’s all good. If you let your child assume that you don’t care, the situation is bound to get much worse.
Do not discourage your child
Remember, your child just needs encouragement to overcome this condition. If you assist them in dropping this habit, there’s no way that the problem won’t solve.
For more information, check out FatheringAutism’s video below:
Dr. Ahmed Zayed, MD holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. An avid contributor to the Huffington Post and Chicago Tribune, Dr. Zayed believes in providing accurate and accessible information to general readers. With years of writing and editing content in the medical niche, Dr. Zayed likes to think of himself as a man with a mission, keeping the internet free of false medical information.