The other day I picked up a pack of pull-ups and put them in my buggy.  I slowly took the pull-ups out of my buggy and sat them back on the shelf.  I stared at them.  My eyes filled with tears.

It was 2006.  I just brought home a new baby so I was anxious to get John David potty trained.  He was merely 2 years old but I was an expert. I had trained his older brother in just a few days. After a couple of weeks I felt defeated.  John David was in a lot of therapy for “Developmental Delay” but none of his therapists or doctors had mentioned anything about potty training. I didn’t give up. I kept trying. The weeks turned into months.  The months turned into years.

“Don’t worry about it.  He will get it.  All kids do.”

I held back the urge to scream at people, “No you idiot.  All kids aren’t potty trained.” I listened as close family members and friends whined about their struggles of potty training their typical children.  I refrained from rolling my eyes. It was exhausting.

Preschool came and went. It became increasing harder to change a five year old. Proper facilities do not exist so I ended up changing dirty diapers in the back of my car. It was tough.  I desperately wanted him potty trained before kindergarten.

I walked in the kindergarten meeting and felt a rush of anxiety as 13 people were staring at me. Why had so many people come to this meeting? Three hours later , notes in hand,  I learned the hard way that the school system would become one of the biggest battles of raising a child with special needs. The words still burn in my ears, “He can’t go to Kindergarten Mrs. Massengale. He isn’t even potty trained.” I left angry. I rolled up my sleeves and decided potty training or any other diagnosis/disability would determine who John David is or what he can do.  He would be afforded the same opportunities as any child.

I became an expert at cleaning poop off of couches, chairs, and everything imaginable.  My little Green Carpet Machine became my best friend.  I put off going out with other families because I couldn’t bear the thought of another accident in public. It put an enormous strain on my marriage due to so few breaks and very few people who would take on such a task of changing him. We began driving 2 cars everywhere and taking turns dealing with it.

I often wondered how could something as simple as potty training become such a heavy burden? Years and years of constant struggles. I went thru a year long litigation with the School System. My marriage struggled.  I sat through school meetings listening to “Professionals” try to take away his inclusion citing reasons like “John David defecated on himself in the middle school hallway.” My friendships disappeared.  I spent so much money on diapers, wipes, pull-ups, clothes, and underwear that I am pretty sure I should own a condo in Florida.

10 years later here I am.  Staring at a pack of pull-ups.  I have enough stories in my head to write a book about my struggles with potty training a nonverbal severely autistic child.  My eyes filled with tears as I realized for the first time in 10 years I don’t have to buy pullups. A line out of Thomas the Train that John David has played over and over rang through my ears.

Never Never Never Give Up

Happy 13th Birthday John David. It took 10 years but YOU did it. We did it.

We didn’t give up. We never will.


Categories: Autism