How do you cope with your child smearing poo? Any advice to stop it? — Scope | Disability forum

How do you cope with your child smearing poo? Any advice to stop it?

JenniferU Member Posts: 108 Courageous
Hi Noel,

This is a post from @boodybabyblogs on Facebook, you can see the original post here:

Wondering if you could give any advice on behaviour techniques?

"Well here I am writing a second blog about poo.

The playing with his own poo problem has reared it’s ugly head again (no pun intended) as I went to put Kai (who has Autism, GDD and additional needs) to bed yesterday I was met with an all too familiar smell in the hallway. Rounding his bedroom door I was met with a brown hand waving at me, from a child sat on a bed smeared with poo.

Calmly I lifted him off the bed and walked him down the hallway towards his dad so the clean up operation could begin, whilst I returned to the bedroom to strip and remake the bed. 
This is becoming a common occurrence now which I am not happy about or sure how to handle. The first time he did it I was so shocked I laughed, the next few times I got increasingly annoyed that he was doing it again and now I’m stumped on how to handle such events. Anger doesn’t get you anywhere and it certainly doesn’t help Kai, Laughing or crying wouldn’t benefit the situation either and simply asking Kai not to do it falls on deaf ears as he doesn’t understand.

I have done various google searches and seen an array of ‘reconditioning’ strategies some of which you wouldn’t even do to a dog! We mentioned it at the respite centre who said they had dealt with it a lot in other children but didn’t give us any coping strategies.

Has anyone else dealt with this?

How do you cope?

What do you say?

I am stumped! I know there will be more incidents to come, we’ve had 4 in the past few weeks. 
If anyone has any words of wisdom, I will happily listen and take them all on board."


  • mummajen2012
    mummajen2012 Member Posts: 4 Listener
    Hi I have had few years of the smearing experience my little one is four and has autism first of all his not toilet trained as one his speech is limited and two I've tried everything and nothing we noticed Lenny would smear as soon as we had got him out of the bath and put him upstairs for the evening this has been goin on since age 1 and half and it would be up to four times a night so we then decided to set a time every 15 minutes to check on him unfortunately this did not work I'd even keep him up past bedtime routine to catch him in the act we have chucked countless of toys pjs and bedding it wasn't until reacently we moved to a ground floor one level flat that he stopped then a few weeks ago he started again we keep a spare washing bowl under our sink for any incidents at first it was an old Jacobs crackers tub we used I always keep a cloth and tooth brush in there reason for the tooth brush is I ended up scrubbing his trains and cars with bleach as they got covered in poo as I knew he would look for them and would cry for them in as nearly every day I was going out and replacing these items my hands got sore from being in bleach scrubbing the walls the carpet he rug his bed his draws you name it nothing was safe in the end I just put up with it and didn't say nothing I'm lucky my partner is very supportive and I would send Lenny of to him to be bathed a
    whilst I stripped the bedding and cleaned everywhere and then there were times where my partner would work the late shift at work and you think how am I going to do this its like an army routine you go trough in your mind onc he did it when we had family round at Christmas they all said s there anything we can do but we both said no it's fine as we had our own routine the best one which we laugh about now is he ended up chucking it down the stairs at us but since we moved he stopped we've had a few incidents but nothing major as he don't have any normal poo time as it depends sometimes he can go up to a few times a day it's just a matter of catching him we went on the early bird course and they did a an iceberg chart what the problem why it happens and how you can try save the problem I hope this has helped in some way 

  • buffalo
    buffalo Member Posts: 15 Listener
    have you tried offering an alternative "messy" activity - home made soft play dough with brown colouring; whiteboard on wall ready to be "smeared on"; squishy activities seem to meet some sort of unexpressible need;  newspaper papier mache or egg box papier mache also provide a similar texture and can be coloured and are nowhere near as offensive to clear up.  
  • ParentingAdvisor
    ParentingAdvisor Member Posts: 14

    Although there may be strategies on the web that you wouldn’t want to do with Kai, there are also approaches that are positive and effective.  Unfortunately there’s no single strategy that’s a magic wand that can guarantee that you can completely eliminate this problem, but many parents have found the following strategies helpful.    For example on the website, there’s an excellent article called ‘6 facts about faecal smearing that you need to know’.  

    In particular numbers 2, 3, and 5 may be very useful for you.  I’ve copied these below.  But please do read the whole article because there are many different reasons for poo smearing and the strategy you choose will depend on the reason that Kai is doing it.

    2.   Some families report that scatolia occurs during periods of under stimulation, for example, while the individual is alone in a darkened bedroom at night with a case of insomnia.  If the person is deprived of appropriate sensory input, then frequent periods of supervised play with soft or sticky substances such as clay, shaving cream or bread dough can alleviate the need for handling faeces.  Substances with a strong smell, such as essential oils, scented lotions, spices or cheese may satisfy the craving for odours.

    3.  Restrictive clothing is often recommended as a preventive measure.  The main benefit is that it buys a few extra minutes for the caregiver to respond appropriately.  Some examples of restrictive clothing are:

    ·     Overalls worn backwards

    ·     Onesie pyjamas worn with the zipper on the back

    ·     One-piece compression underwear

    The problem with restrictive clothing is that it makes independent toileting impossible, so it is really only a temporary measure while treatment is being pursued.

    5.  Behaviour is communication, and scatolia sends a strong message.  Social worker Jessica Wein recommends a functional behavioral analysis to understand the “ABCs” of the behavior:

    “A- Antecedent; what occurs directly before and/or leading up to the behavior (fecal smearing)?

    B- Behaviour; the behaviour itself

    C- Consequence; what occurs after the behaviour including reactions of caretakers?”

    Parents report that a strong emotional reaction increases the frequency and messiness of scatolia.  Wein suggests that the caregivers react in an emotionally neutral manner with as few words as possible, then provide positive attention for desired behaviours.  Additionally, social stories and children’s books such as “Everyone Poops” by Taro Gomi can reinforce appropriate toilet behavior.

    You haven’t mentioned how old Kai is, but you did say he wouldn’t understand if you asked him not to do it.  Even children or toddlers who don’t understand language do still respond to tone of voice and facial expression.  In some children poo smearing is a way to get attention.  You might wonder why a child or toddler would want the negative attention of an angry or exasperated parent.  Often it’s because that reaction is so intense and even exciting for the child.  Any strong reaction is likely to reinforce the smearing.  Knowing this we can make sure numerous times every day to give praise and smiles and hugs for positive behaviour.  Throughout the day you can say, with a big smile, ‘You’re playing so quietly’, ‘You’re sharing’, ‘You’re eating’.  Even children who don’t understand those words are likely to do more and more of what they are praised for.  This type of response is known as Descriptive Praise and I explain about it in a number of my previous blogs posts and replies to other parents, (and also in all my books).

    For best results it makes sense to use as many strategies at the same time as you possibly can.  Please do get back to me and let me know how you’re getting on with all these strategies.  Then I can help you tweak your approach.