By Kodey Toney
Breakfast Can Wait
When I worked in the newspaper business we had what is known as the “breakfast test”. With each article we wrote we had to ask if someone could read it while eating their breakfast. If it was too disgusting we had to then ask if it was worth the risk of grossing out the reader. Well, this week’s column probably does not pass that test, so I’m warning anyone with a week stomach to stop reading right now. This is a subject that I think is very important though for families with someone on the autism spectrum.
We will now proceed to talk about bowel movements…you were warned.
This was sparked by an article that I read last week about a girl in England that died recently from a heart attack after months of chronic constipation. The girl, who had autism, was withholding stool. She, like many on the spectrum, did this because she was reluctant to use the toilet.
For those wondering how she had a heart attack, the feces had become so impacted that it had compressed the chest cavity and caused displacement of other internal organs, according to the article.
So, how does it get to this point? Well, let me just say that we have had this issue with Konner. We monitor very closely what he does with his bathroom visits. However, if you didn’t you probably wouldn’t know much is wrong with the children. Depending on how verbal they are you most likely won’t get much complaint from them.
We have to monitor Konner very closely because there are times he is sick and it’s hard to tell if you don’t know the signs.
That being said, the bowel movements are a catch 22 of sorts. They tend to not go to the bathroom for sensory issues. They either don’t feel the sensations to have to go like most people do because of under sensitivity, or they have so much pain when they go that they don’t want to go. When this happens the real problems begin. They withhold stool so that they don’t have to go and put themselves through the agony, but they are only causing more problems. The feces begins to backup into their bowels and causes it to impact and become so big that it causes huge pain when it does come out.
With Konner we have used prescription strength laxatives, suppositories, and enemas (I’m sure when he’s older he’s going to hate me for telling all this about him, but I think it’s important). When he finally goes, as a man, I’m amazed at what comes out. I’m not going to go into detail for the sake of the breakfast test (I’m sure we’ve already crossed that like though).
I would recommend that you keep a close watch on their bathroom habits though. It can be much more of an issue than you would think. The young lady from England is a worst-case scenario, but I could see how this would happen quickly. Contact at physician quickly if you have any concerns, and if it seems to be a major issue a trip to the emergency room is not going overboard in my opinion.
I know this is not the most pleasant thing to talk about, and I apologize for anyone that I have completely grossed out, but it is something I think everyone should be aware of because it can have tragic results if not properly handled.