Friday, March 13, 2009

The B.O. Battle

Some things have always been hard for Chet to wrap his mind around. He gets scientific facts. In fact he adores squirelling away what appears to be useless minute details of things so that he can share them at the oddest moments. But then there is basic living stuff that is just so. . . hard for him to really get. One of those is proper showering or bathing.

First we have the sensory issue stuff. I spent years working with him so that he would not either scald himself or freeze himself. He has a truly hard time feeling anything other than those two extremes. Our house has old plumbing. I couldn't just mark a place on the faucet and know it would work. It took a lot of practice. Up till about 14 I was still getting the water to the right temp for him, and showing him what was too hot and what was too cold. Thankfully he really did get that eventually. So I have hope that the next level can be achieved.

What is that? Well, just getting clean! LOL Sounds easy right? But it isn't. First there is the sensation of the water going all over you. Then there is the sound that said water makes in our tiny bathroom. (and for the record a tub doesn't do it either as we tried that as well) It tends to overwhelm him after a fairly short while and what he winds up doing is gradually washing less and less. Until eventually one of us--usually Kirsty--notices that he is a bit ripe. He doesn't notice himself of course.

On the plus side, Chet is not averse to direct conversation about body odor. He is not embarassed or alarmed when one of us politely but firmly tells him he smells and not in a good way. He will first assume you should wash his PJ's more than once a week. We explain it isn't the clothing that reeks. It is him.

And the only "cure" that I have found is to have him wear swim trunks into the shower and have me stand there and verbally cue him on the washing techniques. It is always readily apparent what he has forgotten by what i need to cue. And of course the reek is gone which is another clue I guess as well.

Luckily, he doesn't mind me being there and calmly saying things like "don't forget to wash your shoulders and behind your neck." "No don't dig your nails into your skin, you are cleaning not scouring" and other parental pearls of wisdom. He tends to remain able to do this on his own for a few months at a time, but then needs the refresher course, as it were.

This is the facet of his disability that was always hard in school situations and in his work. The goal of most areas of life is to teach and have the learning internalized in a pretty permanent manner so that the person can then function at that level on their own. To others it is maddening to have to go over the same ground rules over and over. And sometimes to me it is as well.

But mostly not. I'll take our small successes and because I am mostly a positive person I truly believe that we will eventually get to a point where he does this successfully and doesn't need me to remind him.

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