By Cathy Jameson
We've hit a snag in the clothing department. Ronan has plenty of clothes, but about a month ago, Ronan preferred not to wear them especially the ones that cover his nether region. During this de-robing phase, it wasn't just his clothes he was taking off—it was also his diaper that I’d find on the floor.
At first, I thought maybe we had some defective diapers. The Velcro tabs weren’t sticking as well as before. But then, the longer it went on, it seemed like a game for Ronan:
Saunter casually passed Mommy.
Watch Mommy's eyes widen.
Walk away as if being naked was a normal and acceptable every-day activity.
Then, watch Mommy run all over the place to find what’s been left behind.
The faster I’d leapt to my feet to find Ronan's clothes, I realized that Ronan's game wasn't over. I'd find his clothing and diaper, which was dry, but Ronan wasn’t done having his fun. He’d finish the game with a laugh after fighting like the dickens while I attempted to get him dressed again.
This happened every few days. Then it began to happen every day and several times a day. Then it happened on a day we had guests over. New guests. Who'd we never met before. Thankfully, the guests were aware of Ronan, the autism, and the need for diapers, but imagine my horror as in walks a half-naked Ronan to the dining room where we were sitting and chatting. To say that I was mortified is an understatement.
A few days after this back-and-forth clothing on/clothing off activity, things finally subsided. Ronan happily kept his clothes on with no issues. All was fine. Until I breathed a sigh of relief.
That was when Ronan changed things up. He decided that daytime undressing was not as exciting as night time undressing. Night time undressing was much more fun especially when he saw that Mommy's eyes got really, really wide. And when he saw that she moved really, really quickly. This, plus having to do multiple loads of laundry daily and now nightly, went on for days. And days. And days.
When the night time undressing wasn't the short-lived phase I'd hoped it would be, we had to get a little serious. We told Ronan that the diaper stays on. Unless it's wet. Then it comes off, but please, tell Mommy or Daddy that it's wet and we'll change you.
Getting Ronan to understand that concept wasn't sinking in though. And the thought of how many more wet spots we'd find on his bed, on his bedding, and on the carpet made me sink into despair. After crying, because some days you can't help but cry, we got back to work. We figured out how to keep Ronan dressed through the night, but we were forced to take ten steps backward.
Years and years and years ago, a dear friend modified zip-up footed jammies for Ronan. They were the kind of pajamas that had a zipper that went from the ankle all the way up the front of the pajamas to the neckline. Ronan had worn those zip-up jammies for quite some time. Until he figured out that he could unzip them. Which meant he could undress himself. Which meant he could remove his diaper. Which he did multiple times. Which is why we needed backward zip-up pajamas. Which is why our friend modified the front-zip jammies. Which helped.
But that was years ago. Ronan’s outgrown those pajamas. And when that happened, I’d hoped he’d outgrown the need to have that type of pajama forever. But here we are again.
Finding front zip-up pajamas in Ronan’s size to modify all those years ago was easy. From when he was in 3T through size 6, most department and big box stores carried the sizes we needed. But to find Ronan’s size now, and to easily make the modifications we’d need to do to them, was proving fruitless.
Countless loads of laundry later, and one more search on Google, I found a solution. I typed 'autism backward zip pajamas" into Google, and waited for a package to delivered. Ronan wasn't thrilled to see the long, leggy pajamas arrive, but with encouragement from the siblings....
…we found success!
I'd love to report 100% success and that my washer and dryer have had a break from washing multiple pee-soaked sheets, blankets and Ronan’s backward zip-up pajamas, but with as everything we have experienced, we ran into regression.
Ronan kept his pajamas on for about 3 weeks. What a honeymoon period that was! But, he started to cinch his diaper off in the middle of the night—even with the pajamas on. He also started to take his diapers again during the day. I realized something one afternoon, though, after picking up the 5th diaper, a wet one. Maybe Ronan doesn't want to be the diaper because he can finally feel that the diaper is wet! Never have I ever been excited to see a wet diaper on the floor. So, we embark on another phase—toilet training.
I know it won’t be easy—not much has been for us lately, but wish us luck as Ronan, aged 12, tippy toes toward toileting training. Maybe it’ll lead to a new milestone and to some independence. Independence. I’d love to see Ronan experience a streak of that.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.