Whatever you did last weekend, our weekend was harder. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.
Our home therapists almost never come on weekends. Certainly, their supervisors have never come on a Saturday or Sunday. That changed last Saturday, when Tyler came over to implement “intensive potty training.” Why not begin it on, say, a Wednesday, while Dar is with his therapist doing his exercises? We found out rather quickly that you can’t get anything else done while doing intensive potty training. Tyler showed up bright and early (okay, 9:00 on Saturday morning) presuming that the process would take all day. He wasn’t far off.
Saturday was Dar’s first-ever day with The Alarm. I was concerned that we would be giving him tiny electric shocks, something like a nicotine addict pulling off his patch, or a paroled prisoner with an anklet trying to leave his designated zone. But no, it’s not like that. Here’s how it is.
The horse-pill-sized main unit is safety-pinned on the back of his shirt. Near the tag is good. I found out the hard way that the wrong placement can rip the shirt and make his mother throw that shirt away. The main unit makes the alarm sound, which sounds like a bird chirping. You can’t adjust the volume on it. The only thing you can do when it sounds is press a button that turns it off. And even that won’t turn it off if the sensor is wet.
The main unit has a wire coming out of it that connects to a clip and a sensor. The wire needs to be wrapped around Dar’s left side so that he can’t pick at it as easily as he can with his (favored) right hand. The clip goes on the pocket of Dar’s jockey-type underwear, and the sensor gets as close as it can to the head of Dar’s, uh, personal unit. It mainly needs to be tucked into the underwear nice and tight, because over the weekend we did have the experience of thinking “Hey, Dar hasn’t peed for a while, great! Oh wait…” only to find that the sensor had fallen out and failed to tell us that his underwear had become soiled. At other times the sensor gave us “false positives.”
If all that wasn’t enough, Dar had to go through levels. On level 1, he had to sit on the potty for 10 minutes and off for 5 minutes. Level 2, on for 10, off for 10. Level 3, on for 5, off for 15. But he found it hard to advance in the levels. That’s because to actually go to the next level, he had to keep his pants dry for the entire “off” time. If he wet them – as signified by the alarm chirp – then he had to repeat the level.
So it’s kind of like your least favorite video game. Only worse, because every time I heard the chirp, I (or Tyler, or wifey) had to take him directly to the potty ASAP. This also meant that one of us had to stay somewhat near him to make sure we could hear the noise at any time. No casual backyard (fenced-in) wanderings like on other weekends.
At the potty, we tried to “turn accidents into successes.” Sounds like something Oprah would say. “Come on, Dar, pee.” Yes, that sounds just as pathetic when spoken out loud. We tried distracting him with books and games. We tried not distracting him. We tried leading by example. We tried running the sink water. At different speeds. We tried him sitting, we tried him standing. Fail, fail, fail.
After activating the sensor, he would have a minute on the potty to try to convert the accident into a success. After that failed, we had to do this routine of walking him back to the “scene of the crime,” er, the scene of the chirp. Sometimes this was the room next door to the bathroom, sometimes it was in the far corner of the backyard (Dar trying to avoid us). We’d walk him back there and then yell at him in a firm voice “NO WET PANTS.” Then we’d walk him back to the potty, sit him on it for three seconds, and then walk him back to the scene of the chirp with another “NO WET PANTS.” He would scream with sadness because he hates being yelled at. We also hate yelling at him. But the point is to make the experience aversive. Every accident that didn’t become a success (that’s all of them) required four no-wet-pants marches. After the fourth one, he returns to the potty, we get him new underwear and sometimes new shorts (depending on how big the accident was), we reattach the alarm, and then say “All done.”
Yes, we went through a lot of tidy whiteys. This technique is not recommended for anyone without a washing machine and dryer. This technique is also not recommended without an aide. Too bad Tyler left on Saturday around 1:30pm.
Frankly, this technique is not recommended for anyone other than the desperate. We want Dar to be eligible for schools and programs that require their kids to be potty-trained. By the way, yes we PTd our other kid the normal way, and he was/is fine. Yes, we have had that experience. Comparing this to that is like comparing your bathtub to scuba-diving the Great Barrier Reef.
Sometimes, over the weekend, Dar went from his no-wet-pants lecturing to a near-hour of accident-free time. Other times, we would go for five minutes and hear that chirp. Then we would do our cycle, change his underwear, and then be greeted by another chirp five minutes later. Dar screams a LOT in the bathroom in these circumstances. He stretches his legs as we count the seconds on the timer. Sometimes he hits himself with frustration as I say lamely, “please just pee.”
No one can get anything done in such a situation. Not a chance. All one can do is be driven slowly mad.
The plan is to do this forever, until Dar gets it. That’s not quite the same as doing it all the time. School and bedtime are the same as ever. We put the alarm on him during afternoons and weekends.
The good news is that somehow, Dar has made it to Level 10: 5 minute sit, 2.5 hours off.
The bad news is: we haven’t had any successes.
That’s not QUITE true. One time, we did see maybe two drops. (In the category of too much information, we put him on a toddler seat on the toilet, partly so that we could keep his, uh, unit visible to us, just so we didn’t miss seeing even a drop.) We cheered and gave him many Gummi Bears. Outside of this experience he gets zero gummies except vitamins (which he wolfs down, and presumably don’t taste as good as the Trader Joe’s sugar type). That was less of converting an accident into a success and more of converting an accident into another accident.
There’s no two ways about it: Dar finds the toilet aversive. He’s directly opposed to going in it. You know how you have a little switch in your brain that keeps you from going in your bed? And you’re so good at it that the switch stays in position even while you’re asleep? Dar has that switch activated for toilets. He considers them as inappropriate for urine as you consider your bed.
We’re also supposed to be keeping a log of every trip to the potty. We’re not. Sue us.
We’ve got trouble. Right here in River City. With a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pee. (That stands for pee!)