A Touch of Alyricism

Dedicated to the equally fascinating topics of autistic advocacy and the 'sisterly sophistries' of radical gender feminism. Other topics may occasionally crop up. Contactable at alyric@gmail.com


Polemicist since Grade 8

Friday, May 05, 2006

SHIT HAPPENS - well maybe not

There’s a recurring theme running through the stereotypical portrayal of autism in cyberspace. Along with ‘cut off from the world’ and ‘self-injurious’ there’s very often the dramatic ‘smearing faeces everywhere’, which conjures up very unpleasant images indeed plus a whole bundle of sympathy for the plight of the poor parent having to clean up this foul mess on a regular basis. It also leaves the marked impression that there’s no hope for the poor lost soul doing the smearing. Of course this smearing is abnormally occurring in the older autistic child since typically developing children have been known to do this sort of thing – before the age of 2.

I never had a reason to question the veracity of this assertion until Mr John Best Jr used it and that gave me pause. Mr Best is not exactly the shy and retiring type. Generally he lets you know his views quite forcefully. He runs a weblog with the title ‘hatingautism’ after all and it would be reasonable to surmise, so all consuming is his plight in raising his autistic son, that if faeces smearing really had been a major and enduring part of the autistic scenery post infancy, we would have heard about it long ago and rather often. But no, there it was - this solitary reference – very un-Best-like.

Now once the seed of doubt is planted, it niggles. How often do we hear this ‘faeces smearing’ descriptor of parenting in extremis? On reflection, but this could very easily be recall bias, it seems that the parents making the call are usually referring to OPKs – Other People’s Kids. In which case, this could very well be the very stuff of myth making. Statements are made with a dramatic flourish – seems to garner lots of sympathy. So it is repeated endlessly and urban legend here we come!

But, lets not lose sight of the fact that these kids are autistic. Autistic kids have some rather entrenched sensory sensitivities – particularly to texture. You won’t find either lima beans or scungy slimy things including bread and butter pudding in my household. The unimaginable, to me, is how an autistic kid could stand the sensory insults involved in handling faeces. Here, my imagination simply quits.

So, is this for real? Do autistic kids smear faeces as a rule? Are the perpetrator’s really autistic would be my question.

So, when you hear this descriptor, check to see if this is about their child or an OPK, whose parent might very well have heard it about another OPK and so on. We get exaggerated to on a regular basis, so I think it’s reasonable to be a little more sceptical. Of course, if this is really real we’d better know about that too.


Blogger ballastexistenz said...

I have heard that my (Asperger-identified) brother did as a kid, but I wasn't around yet.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Alyric said...

Sure, lots of kids do this, but at what age and was this kid sensorally sensitive? [Don't know quite how to put that].

3:30 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

My autistic son wore nappies for a year or so longer than his siblings. He used to fiddle with his genitals a lot (still does, well he's a boy!). If he'd filled his nappy, he would probably get a bit of faeces on his hand, but it was inadvertent. I didn't like it (obviously)but to be honest it wasn't a big problem, I just had to be more aware of when he needed to be changed.

8:42 AM  
Blogger mumkeepingsane said...

My NT son smeared feces when he was young (age 2-3) but my son with autism never did! He hated to be dirty and would find a way to let me know that he needed changing. He also, surprisingly to me, toilet trained fully before age 4. Now that I think of it, I've never seen or heard directly of a child on the spectrum who did this at an older age. Hmmm.

5:27 AM  
Blogger Lou said...

My five year old son (as we speak) is in the shower after having smeared faeces all over his walls, his window, his clothes and face. He does this every time he is able to. It results in us having to put him in zipped up clothing with elasticated legging at the ankles so he doesnt go in through the bottom of the pants legs..... Trust me IT IS real and I struggle with this aspect of autism in a HUUUGE way..... www.keepingitlite.blogspot.com

4:45 AM  

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