Under Pressure

Sometimes we have to be reminded that our kids are not us.  I mean, sure, my child is adorable & funny–which he CLEARLY gets from me, amiright?–but I think that may be where the similarity ends.

FACT:  I work well under pressure.  Give me a deadline and a few hours to create something and BAM!  done!  YES!  SUCK IT TIME!  Some of my best writing has been under the “this has to be submitted tomorrow” time crunch.

It focuses me, pressure does.  It blocks out the shiny nonsense and squirrels that generally hinder me and puts me straight on my path.  In plays, I would be useless up until the final week.  Then every line was etched into my brain, every mark every cue.  ETCHED.  When working on my senior thesis–given the WHOLE SEMESTER, most of my best work?  done the night before each portion was due (there were several deadlines, to that helped)

I may have preached to my students the importance of pre-planning and preparation, but I was a hypocrite.  How many kick-ass lessons did I prepare in the wee mornings before the stumbled into my room?

Now, that isn’t to say deadlines don’t give me anxiety.  But mostly it’s an anxiety that I will not finish in time, or that my work will be sub par.  A normal anxiety, really.  No Xanax needed.

But all this I’ve described here?  Not my son.

Oh–he may show signs of this later on, but right now, for this lesson, THIS is not my son.


So, we’ve been potty training for a few years now.  And I use the term loosely, because its been more of a “how to sit on the potty and then put on a pull-up” training.  Its been an ABA goal for a year.  He does everything for potty training–EXCEPT ELIMINATE.

Now–before you “have you tried…?” me, the answer is yes.  100x YES.  underwear weekend?  check.  a million gallons of fluids and following him around with a potty chair?  check.  prizes, prizes and more prizes–check, check and FUCKING CHECK.  Where do you think these extra pounds came from?  those Reeses cups aint’ gonna eat themselves.  Naked–check.  new underwear–check.  EVERY. THING.  Sometimes a new method would give us a small victory, only to go back to drawing board the next minute.

And as much as I would LOVE to be past all this(with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns), I’ve given up being all horked up about it and am letting him do this in his time–with a good push from time to time (can someone say naked summer pool time?)

Because here’s what I have discovered:  All this pressure?  TOTALLY giving him anxiety.  And I don’t mean he’s a little nervous.  I mean ear flapping (he smacks his ears and then covers them) head shaking, crying screaming anxiety.  I have seen him try.  Hell, he’s gotten out of bed to tell me he wants to try, only to sit down and nothing happens, and he looks at me so forlorn, so upset, telling me that “it’s not working” and then bursting into heartbreaking tears.  Because I have offered some awesome treats.  and he really wants them.  But he gets so worked up…

Well, he gets so worked up that when he fails, its traumatizing.  I’m not exaggerating here.  We’ve had days when I have to retrain him to simply go BACK into the the bathroom because he jumps into a screaming meltdown if I even suggest the potty.  And then he wants NOTHING to do with potty training whatsoever.  NOTHING.

And back to square one.

So, we (his therapist and I) have come to the conclusion that the pressure, the hype, the ramp-up–ALL OF IT is creating this anxiety train that is getting in the way of actual progress.  Lucky for me–his therapist is the same way–she cannot TAKE the pressure of something, but does extraordinarily well when simply left alone–she is NOT a cram-for-the-exam-the-night-before kind of gal.

So now I am back to baby steps.  Yesterday he wore his new Spiderman underwear for 30 minutes.  Today I am hoping for a little longer, but I am ok if it’s not.  I have learned how to use reinforcers to guide him, not pressure him. (I.e. he couldn’t get on the computer yesterday until he at least put on the underwear, then I let HIM dictate when that happened)

This may seem silly to those who have successfully potty trained their kid, neurotypical or non.  But I know I’m not alone in this.  There are plenty of us with kids on the spectrum (and not) who have kids much older than old frowny faces would tell you they should be trained.  Because it isn’t about this method or that–but how your kid works.  I was coming at Ben like *I* would solve the problem, and clearly that was wrong.

The pressure isn’t on him–its on me.  Well then–this should be a piece of cake then.  Let the focus begin…

Categories: Autism, parenting | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Under Pressure

  1. We have been potty training for a couple years now as well. It’s one of those things that I decided early on that I wouldn’t stress about though. I’m ok with my son getting to it when he is ready ……. but I do encourage and have also tried all the things you have tried because lets face it, life would be a heck of a lot easier and cheaper if we didn’t have to deal with diapers. Good luck with Ben and hopefully my Jay gets it sooner rather than later.

  2. When we had our first IEP meeting, my son’s soon-to-be teacher asked, “What other goals do you have?” I said, “What about potty-training?” Her response, “There is time and so many other things to focus on. I want you to just let that go.”
    And so I did. From that moment, I knew I was going to love his teacher.
    Of course, when I got a foot in the face last night changing my son’s diaper, it was hard not to dream of the day when he would use the potty.
    Good luck to you both!

  3. jimreeve

    I wish you luck. I know it will be a huge victory for you when it finally happens with regularity. And it will happen eventually, so don’t stress too much in the meanwhile.

  4. blogginglily

    Yeah. . . that’s where we are with Lily too, more or less. Although she eliminates. . . just doesn’t initiate.

  5. tiredlikeabicycle

    I would give him one for sitting and trying…then the deed may get done. I have had my own trouble with 2 girls and a boy. Only one of the girls was easy. I gave her underwear, she wore it to daycare and a week later had her one and only accident, she woke from a nap and thought she was on the potty. I’m still working on the last. He has problems quitting things to go including sleep.

  6. You are not alone. It was an ABA goal for my middle guy, and is an ABA goal now for my youngest. With both, they had to be in charge. I tried, they fought, I gave up. I have punted to the therapists to create a program, which we will all follow loosely. It’s hard, of course, when I see my cousins’ kids, who are the same age or younger than mine, fully toilet trained. But then I ask…yes, they maybe they are in underwear, but do they know every single car’s logo and can identify a Chevy from 20 ft away? No. 🙂
    it will happen went it happens. But we’re all right here with you.

  7. Oh my friend, I know how hard this one is, and how judgy people are about it. We tried lots of things with Connor too, and then I decided to just back off and let him wear the damn pull-ups. And just like most other things, he finally did it in his own time, when HE was ready.

    You can guide, you can teach, but you can’t force. You and the therapist are on the right track.

  8. Training a boy is hard enough. Training a boy who has special needs seems to triple the difficulty.
    All of my other children were trained by the age of two. I had my difficulties with them, but not nearly what I have with my little Aspie.
    I got him to pee in the potty by simply waiting him out. Having a bowel movement was another chore entirely. He would wait til no one was in the room, and then do it in his underwear. If we came in after he had done it, he would yell, “Get out!” We would then know that he had had an accident. It took forever for him to stop doing that. I think he may have been about four years old before he would do it in the potty.
    There were days when I wanted to pull my hair out. Potty training is frustrating for everyone involved. I know some people have it much worse.

  9. heatheramyprice

    I feel your pain! I tried about a thousand times to train Mr C. The week he turned 5, he finally decided he was ready and it was (FAIRLY) clear sailing from then on out. He still has poop issues (you have to watch him do the dance and TELL him it’s time to go potty), but pee is pretty good now. And then there’s little Miss Stubborn. UGH. She’ll be 6 in January with NO END IN SIGHT to the madness. I stumped the board of developmental disabilities rep who met with me to help train them. I stumped all her therapists. And now she has an outreach worker who is equally stumped.

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