“Cody Pooped in the Potty!”
Cody is Blue Boy’s doll. Last night we were trying to herd the cats….er, get the twins to settle down for our nighttime story, when we heard those words from Blue Boy. Sure enough, there was a naked Cody sitting on the dusty potty chair that neither twin had shown any interest in for well over a month. Blue Boy was standing proudly next to him. Beany came zooming across the room to look at the miracle – she quickly started trying to arrange Cody so he would be more comfortable. There was a tussle of body parts and Cody fell into the potty. Beany thought he needed to get dressed, Blue Boy wanted him to stay naked. Cody was quickly forgotten and we managed to get everyone sitting down for a story.
This was big, really big. Kids on the spectrum frequently struggle with play. All the professionals in Blue Boy’s life tell us that play, and particularly pretend play, are skills that we need to teach him because it won’t come naturally. So, along with all the other toys I have purchased to try and engage Blue Boy, I got Cody. Cody has a penis. I thought that would help with Blue Boy’s ability to identify with Cody and lead to better engagement. And, at first, it did. But then, like so many other toys, Cody was forgotten and he laid sleeping undisturbed in his tiny little pretend bed for many weeks. If you brought Cody out and suggested he might be thirsty, Blue Boy would offer him something to drink. If you said Cody is hungry, then Blue Boy would share his snack. But it was prompted, always prompted. Last night was not only unprompted, it was novel. We have never suggested that Cody might have to use the potty. And, not only was it unprompted and novel, but it might also be a gateway to potty training – hooray!
We haven’t really worked on potty training yet – it is another notoriously tricky area for some autistic kids. Beany showed an early interest around 18 months and then, poof, it evaporated. Blue Boy showed an initial fear of the potty and wouldn’t sit on it. Then he would sit on it, but never with his bare bum. We let him move at his own pace. Beany took up interest again with a vengeance last summer, but we were so distracted with the new diagnosis and all of Blue Boy’s appointments and needs that we didn’t follow through and she lost interest again. During that period, Blue Boy would get really excited for Beany when she had a “hit” and soon was sitting on the potty bare-bummed and even had a hit or two himself. We probably should have jumped on the potty training bus at this point, but they were just starting preschool and having such a hard time that we couldn’t imagine doing potty training simultaneously. Particularly since they are both afraid of public restrooms – meltdown, hysterical, terrified. They have been since they were infants. We think it’s a noise sensitivity thing – blowers, toilets flushing, echoes. So, for us, potty training will also need to include de-sensitizing them to public restrooms if we ever want to leave the house again!
Such a small thing, putting a doll on a potty. In a house with typical kids, it might even go unnoticed. But in our house it is cause to celebrate. No, it wasn’t sustained pretend play. But it was a beginning. And, it might come in handy when we finally push the potty training this summer!