Thursday, November 18, 2010

Self Gratification

I am writing about a fairly sensitive issue that some parents who have autistic children face. . . masturbation impulses. This is not for those who are squeamish and I am writing this in a humorous context, because I need to laugh about it or I might cry. So be warned.
As a parent, we all face a certain point in our child's discovery of their body, when they discover their private areas. You all know what I am talking about so don't act so appalled and prudish on me. It's natural for children to explore and discover things - it is after all one of the joys of being a parent - getting embarrassed by our children and them exploring their bodies albeit without much concern for the time, place, or our mortification.
Never is this more so than when you have a special needs child. Not all special needs children go through this, but I would hazard that a good number of them discover their genitalia and start going to town as they find out it feels good. We began facing this problem after Chris deployed in 2004 and after breaking Elizabeth of the habit to bang her head when frustrated - she turned to self-gratification to comfort herself. Honestly, I think I might have preferred the headbanging to the looks of shock, horror, and Puritanical mortification I saw on people's faces when she would begin to "comfort" herself in public. Obviously, I didn't encourage this behavior, in fact, I would pull her hands out of her pants as soon as they would go in or I discovered them there and we would go wash her hands.
I didn't mind that it was something she did at night, it was that she had no rhyme or reason to when she would take up her new obsession. Usually, when she would watch TV, sit in the car on a long drive, in the grocery store because she was frustrated, you name it, any stressful situation and down those hands would go down the pants.
For the most part I would warn people, but occasionally I would forget. I'll never forget the time that Damion called Sheri and I yelling about her enjoying herself a little too much while he was babysitting her for me. I'd forgotten to warn him - from that point on, Damion insisted she wear pants, and I did my best to remember to warn others.
Once they had a new Sunday School Substitute teacher who was a very sweet woman. She thought it was interesting that she would crawl into the play oven in the room and stayed there the whole class period. I didn't have the heart to tell this wonderful woman in Christ, that more than likely Lizzie was in there enjoying the lesson a little more than this woman would have preferred.
Eventually, with the help of her special needs team and their support staff, we were able to stop Lizzie from this impulse - except in the privacy of her own room. Some children though don't get to that point and so those who love them or who are their caregivers learn to deal with this interesting impulse issue.
I do have to say that after several years of dealing with this issue on my own, it was nice when one evening after we had Beka - Chris and I went out with the baby and left Lizzie with Sarah to babysit. A few weeks before I had purchased a back massager for Chris that had balls on the end that lit up when the massager was turned on. Chris loved this gift and apparently so did Lizzie. Chris took a sleeping Rebekah upstairs to put her in bed, when . . . you guessed it, he walked in on Lizzie in the middle of getting her jollys WITH HIS NEW BACK MASSAGER!!! She came running down the stairs, afraid she was in trouble and Chris followed suit shortly after and after asking me if I knew what "Our daughter" had been doing? He proceeded to explain to me. I had to laugh at this, the horror on his face and after reassuring her that she wasn't in trouble, but that she had to do that only in her room or bathroom in private, I had a good chuckle.
Needless, to say Chris insisted that I throw out the machine, but he was fine with me saving the batteries that powered it. To this day he still shakes his head and informs me there are some things a dad should never find his daughter doing and that is at the top of the list. LOL! He was definitely more traumatized by this than Lizzie was at the time.
Remember I wrote about a lack of impulse control, this is a very good example of an autistic child following their impulses and not thinking about the consequences. Yes, I write about this with humor, but please understand, that humor is going to be one of the things that keeps you sane during the journey of learning to help your autistic child and learning to live with all Autism means for you and your child.
As I write about our journey with Elizabeth more and more, I will more than likely write it from a humorous angle. Please understand this, when I write about our journey and try to make it somewhat humorous, it is like this - you have to laugh or you will cry. If I have to choose between laughter and tears, I will take laughter any day of the week.
I hope you all have a good week and that God blesses you as your walk this path with us.
Love in Christ,

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Thank you for writing about this topic. We are not there yet but I am ready for the day when James discovers himself.

I remember several years back listening to a group of highly educated people on their amazing Autism program. They talked about using reinforcement for the kids when they did their "job". I was appalled when they shared a story of a young man who liked to self gratify himself ~ so they would use that as his reinforcement. There is absolutely no legal job on the planet where that is payment for a job well done. I stopped listening after that and wondered where they got their education!