Lets Talk About Poop Logs: Our Potty Training Struggle

by Jennifer M Miller

Possible Gross Out Warning?

If you’re eating right now, you might want to come back in an hour because I’m going to be graphic. I will probably be using different words for fecal matter because first year English teaches you that the reuse of the same word is monotonous. If you have a strong stomach and choose to stick around while you eat, then be warned. This post might be a choking hazard. Laughing and eating is not recommended.

Let The Poop Talk Commence!
Background: My 4yo son was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) with the Subtype Postural/Ocular Disorder and Self Regulation Disorder. His language comprehension is low, also. The technical explanation is long and complicated, with lots of fancy words. I’m neither complicated nor fancy, so here’s my version… Part of his brain don’t work so it don’t understand what the nerves ar tellin’ it to do. This makes his eyes funny, his hands wiggly, his senses dumb, and his sittin’ lousy. And he don’t understand whachya sayin’. Wow. That was actually more complicated than the technical version… but the technical version isn’t as fun to read.

Potty Time!
So, when SuperJEM was a little over 3 we started potty training. (JEM are his initials…yes, we knew JEM is an 80’s cartoon show about girl rockers… no, we didn’t name him after her… maybe, we thought you’d all just overlook it). We went really easy on him and let him set the pace. We talked to a dozen people, went to the library and got all kinds of books, made charts, got special seats, tons of candy and a big dose of courage. Things weren’t going well at the 6 month mark. He had very little success with pee and no success with the poop. We were exhausted already!

We determined he wasn’t ready so we backed off completely but then he started withholding. Withholding is when the kid holds his poop in, which can be dangerous if it gets bad enough. He would do everything possible to keep his poop in, even when we told him time and time again to just “let it out” in his diaper. We gave him laxatives and he still tried to hold it in.

Here’s where it get messy and gross. His body would try to poop and he would try to hold it in so he’d be Prarie-Doggin’ it all day long. That’s when the log comes out of the butthole but the kid sucks it back in. *pause while you clean up the Coke Zero you just spit out over your computer screen* This meant he needed a diaper change because he’d still be a mess. They were like Ghost Turds. Let me just describe what a ‘withholders’ crap is like. It’s basically compacted sand. So every time you wipe their sensitive kid butts, it like using sand paper (whether your using TP or wipes). Do this 20 times a day and you’ve literally wiped off the first layer of their bum-skin. He had open wounds like you wouldn’t believe. His pediatrician said it was the worse he’d seen but didn’t have any suggestions as to what we could do. We had to keep him clean! So we work past the pain. I started putting him in the tub and rinsing him off in the shower up to 8 times a day. We were really exhausted now!

Nothing motivated him. We tried to bribe him with books, trips to the bookstore, trips to the zoo, going to the movies, big toys, little toys, quality time with us, game nights, visits with friends, we even tried a Puppy!!!!! Nothing worked. He literally didn’t give a crap.

Potty Training was becoming the hardest thing I ever had to do. It was the most physically, emotionally and even spiritually challenging experience of my life. That may sound overly dramatic to you, but when you’re baby boy is screaming his head off because his butt is an open wound, he’s literally scared poopful of sitting on the potty, and he still has to take a dump, you’ll realize what real drama is. I had no idea what to do and no one had anything to offer me. I was on my own.

The thing that really upset me, is that his pediatrician and Occupational Therapist were no help at all. They told me this was all do to his “disorder”. He doesn’t have the core muscle strength to sit on the potty for long periods. He’s also hypo-sensitive, which means his sense of touch is diminished, so he cant feel the urges to push out his poop. There are no books on potty training children specific to SPD, no articles (that I could find and believe me, i spent hours searching and emailing people), no advice… Nothing. Though I was alone in the area of ‘real’ information and help, I was not alone in my fear and frustration. Many others have kids with Sensory Processing issues that are experiencing the same thing.

Here's What We Did:
1. We got over what other people thought about us. We decided to do what was best for him, not what others thought we should do (because we

were obviously doing something wrong Hahaha!).
2. I prayed and prayed. I cried and cried. I prayed some more and eventually I taught myself to laugh about it. Laughing really helps (just don’t do it in front of your kid , not very confidence building).
3. We took a break. A looong break. We didn’t talk about potty training for about 6 months.
4. It occurred to me that since we really needed a diaper sprayer for our cloth diapering needs, we could use it as a bidet! The one that I got said it was both… why didn’t I think of this before when my baby boys biscuits were bleeding?! After suffering initial guilt over my obvious oversight, I just enjoyed no more booty wounds and the giggles that exploded from my 4yo’s joyful face as his bottom was sprayed with delightfully cool water.

Seriously: if you have potty training kids. Get One! It’s great for spraying
them and all the poopy underwear! Why is this not mentioned by pediatricians?! Plus it will save you hundreds of dollars on what you would pay for disposable wipes.

5. I found "one" book that helped me understand Potty Training Kids with Sensory Processing issues. The Potty Journey: Guide to Toilet Training Children with Special Needs, Including Autism and Related Disorders …whew, that was a mouthful. But this book really helped. We didn’t need to do the full strict program because once we started it, JEM led the pace and we were able to follow his lead. I highly recommend this book to every parent. All parents! This system is good for any kid, especially one with a need for routine and structure.
6. We eventually found something that motivated him. We still offered him a puppy, but he asked if he could go to karate instead.
7. My husband took a week’s vacation to help. We stayed at home and he helped my son. My son identified with him better and within a couple of days, he was actually Pooping In The Potty. *Dads, you are amazing! Without you guys, our kids would suffer. Thank you guys for laying down your life to be a present, loving husband and father. You all deserve more than just one day of acknowledgement.* Thank you, SuperHubby for all your sacrifices. I love you so much!

The Low Down:
In short (LMBO…nothing about this has been short), we did whatever we needed to do. All other ‘priorities’ took the backseat. The house was a mess, but patience and endurance were gained and we now have a child that goes to the bathroom (most times without being asked.) That part literally happened over night. We started the program and after a few weeks, I heard him go into the bathroom on his own and actually poop in the potty! Once that was going well, he started peeing in the potty! He still has accidents, but he’s not withholding and he’s excited about being a big boy.

My Encouragement:
I wanted to write about our experience to help all of those dads and moms out there who are having a difficult time potty training their kids. I went through a very deep depression that year. My baby wasn’t sleeping, my toddler wasn’t pooping and I was beyond exhausted. So if you’re struggling, please reach out to someone.

I have made some excellent friends on Twitter. Sure, I’ve never met them and its not the kind of friendship that is intimate. But its one full of shared interests, laughter, omg’s, acceptance and encouragement. I’m so thankful for their kindnesses. It really got me through a dark time.

I don’t want to diminish the love and understanding from our closest friends and advisors. They are the foundation of our lives. Well, actually God is the foundation, but they are like the stones we build around us to protect us and give us peace. Thank you all so much for loving us, supporting us, and encouraging us.

Its All Going To Be Okay, my mantra. In the end, he’s my precious little baby boy and I love him with all of my heart :’) *happy tear*

Potty Training Related:
The Potty Journey: Guide to Toilet Training Children with Special Needs, Including Autism and Related Disorders by Judith A. Coucouvanis
Scared To Poop: A Guide to Overcoming Constipation and Stool Withholding in Children by Kathleen M. Diehl (I haven’t actually read this one yet)
Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi (this is good for little kids…2yo)
It Hurts When I Poop! by Dr. Howard J. Bennett, MD (this book is awesome! and for older toddlers who withhold their poop)

Sensory Processing Disorder:
Sensational Kids by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, Ph.D., OTR
The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Stock Kranowitz, MA
The Out of Sync Child Has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Stock Kranowitz, MA
Tool Chest: For Teachers, Parents & Students A Handbook to Facilitate Self-Regulation (this book was written by an OT for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder and contains physical activities to help SPD kids. It’s like OT in your own home)

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by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for this article. We have been dealing with stool with holding for about a year. Our pediatrician and OT have been no help. We've even seen a pediatric GI and got nothing more than the miralax regimen as a plan of action. I just iordered the book. We are so desperate for a fix.

Same here
by: anonymous

Hi, My son is autistic and he has the exact same problem. It began almost overnight. He was healthy and pooping regularly and suddenly he started to hold in his poop. He was about 2 and a half then. He's three now. It was shocking to see it. I didn't know people would want to keep poop in! I get what you mean by the exhaustion....physical and mental. And you're right ....am mist disappointed in our OT and paediac. All i got was stock answers. Thanks for your post. I have ordered the book and hope I find some success with it.

by: lYN

Hello! I am a mother of a two year old boy from the philippines. Thank you for sharing your story. My husband and i are talking about potty training our boy with symptoms of autism. He is on OT too. it was a big help to us but there are still lots of behavioral problems. My boy has no speech only babbling sounds, screaming at times and shifting eye contacts. So teaching him is a problem when he refuses to look at us and listen. We hope he will be easy to toilet train but we know with his condition it will be difficult. I will look for the book you recommended here in my country. but i doubt.i may have to order online and be prepared with the expenses. Life is hard and we have spent lots of money on our boy already. We hope he will grow up independent, bright and with a job. High hopes but we are praying hard that he overcomes his autism.


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