Do you have a dog that hates the water? Do you try to bathe him/her anyway? Then you might have the skill set to bathe my kid with autism. Read on to find out if you have a possible second career as a autism bather.
Both my dog and my autistic son will only stand in the tub. They will not sit in the water, and voluntarily subject themselves to getting cleaned. They both wear forlorn expressions of dread as the water begins to fill the cavity of the bath. Their eyes dart from the flowing tap to the growing pool at their feet with suspicion and fear. Even with a small amount of water in the tub, both the dog and N are in full suffering mode. As soon as there is a scoopable amount of water in the tub, the tap is turned off. There follows a temporary reduction in anxiety, the calm before the cleansing storm, however, for as soon as the soap and wash cloth appear, both my autistic son and the dog will begin to pace back and forth along the farthest long edge of the tub, as though looking for an escape, mimicking caged zoo animals. Since the behaviours of the dog and N are similar, and the strategies I must employ to get the job done are also similar, I find it often efficient and amusing to bathe them both at the same time.
I am sure you will be relieved to know that IF I do bathe our small dog and Nick together, I bathe Nick first. In addition to obvious sanitary issues, the dog can wait but Nick will not, especially for something he does not particularly want. Time is of the essence for this job. While I deftly chase Nick with soap ladened cloth, the dog stands quietly on her hind legs with her front paws and head resting on the ridge of the tub, her eyes silently begging to be taken out.
Now for the tricky part. I have chased Nick back and forth, back and forth, back and forth and have managed to soap him down completely. It is time for the dreaded shampoo. I rub the shampoo between my hands while Nick cowers in the farthest corner of the tub. I carefully work it into his hair. Then, the worst part of ALL, the terrifying physical assault on the senses, the RINSE.
Ever since a baby Nick has been afraid of water flowing down his face. I feel sorry for him about that but, what can you do, we all need to wash. The shower is totally out of the question, N won’t even go near the shower stall, if he will use the bathroom he carefully and swiftly closes the shower door before any bathroom action will begin. The shower door must remain closed at all times while he is in the bathroom.
Nicholas is whimpering and visibly distressed as I pour warm water from a cup over his head. His natural reaction is to lower his face which makes it worse. I tell him “look up” so the water will flow down his back, but he will not listen. I even composed a little “dum ditty to try to teach him to look up for the rinse, it is called “Look up and see the Birdies”. Perhaps one day I will be foolish enough to record it (and my other silly autism songs) for this blog. So far my Birdie song, while entertaining, has not been effective.
Once water begins to flow from the top of his head, he panics, he lowers his head, closes his eyes, begins jumping up and down, vocalizing ehh! ehh! ehhh! ehhh!! and flaps his hands. (Be assured readers, we have an excellent no slip coating on the tub to avoid slip-and-falls).
Once all soap is removed I have a towel ready by the tub, and I open it and hold it up and wide so he can tell that bath is ALL DONE! Panic stops immediately, it’s instant happiness. Repeat process for dog. Another successful daily adventure with autistic kid!