Wednesday, March 28, 2012


This is Luke's nemesis:

This kind is even worse because sometimes it turns on when one just walks past it. This REALLY terrifies Luke.

Luke's biggest, most all-encompassing fear is of public restrooms and all that they entail. He hates automatic flushers. A friend of mine taught me a trick to help with this fear: she carries a pad of sticky notes in her diaper bag and slaps one over the sensor so it won't go off and scare her kid to death. Genius! But it isn't just the automatic part that scares Luke. He is scared of the sound of ANY flushing. Even in our own house he runs out of the bathroom with his pants down half the time. He waits until the toilet is done flushing and re-filling and THEN he'll go back and wash his hands.

Public restrooms are ten times scarier (or more) than our house toilet because he doesn't know how the toilet will sound. So he stands in front of the toilet shaking and swearing that he doesn't actually have to go, or that he just wants to go at "Luke's house" or any other number of excuses while I try to calm him down so that he can just try. Figuring out what to do with Micah while I also try to comfort Luke is an adventure all in itself. One time I was helping Luke go to the bathroom at the library. He was shaking. I was rubbing his back and telling him it was okay, swearing the toilet wasn't scary, promising he could do the light switches when he was done. Meanwhile Micah was in the next stall over splashing happily in the toilet. A woman walked in, took one look at the situation, stated emphatically that she'd just come back later, and fled the scene.

Once Luke knows what to expect he does better. He can usually pee in a specific public place again with little problem after he's done it once. So he WILL use the restroom at Martin's grocery store, the library, and a few bathrooms at Colonial Williamsburg. This does not, however, apply to Wal-mart since the bathrooms always have other occupants besides just us. He doesn't know when a toilet will flush, he doesn't know if and when the hand dryers will turn on. He's a nervous wreck in a Wal-mart bathroom. Although things have gotten a lot better since Luke has learned that MOST people will be nice and NOT use a hand dryer if they understand his fear.

This is how he learned this (to him) most valuable lesson. We were at CW and Micah needed a diaper change. Our regular bathroom at the Governor's Palace was closed, so we had to go to a different one. This bathroom had multiple stalls (we usually go to a family restroom that is an individual room), and it HAD A HAND DRYER. As we went in another woman followed us in also. Luke literally dug in his heels and refused to move. He was trembling. He was crying. I told him that I wouldn't use the hand dryer, but he kept looking to the stall that the woman had entered. He just didn't trust that woman. I explained to Luke that the lady looked very nice and that if we just asked her not to use it, she probably wouldn't do it. Luke took that to heart and ran to her stall door. He stood outside it screaming, "DON'T USE THE HAND DRYER! DON'T USE THE HAND DRYER!" Thank Goodness! She swore that she wouldn't. Then some other ladies came in. Luke ran to them and frantically begged/ shouted "DON'T USE THE HAND DRYER!" Heaven be praised, every single one of those kind old ladies swore to him that they wouldn't use it. And they all began telling stories of their little granddaughter or grandson who was also scared of them...yahta yahta yahta. So now any time we enter a public restroom with a hand dryer, Luke proceeds from stall to stall shouting at every single person NOT TO USE THE HAND DRYER. I am so thankful there are good and understanding people in this world, and especially in Wal-mart. The kind ladies there will stand sentinel while Luke is in his stall and make sure that newcomers know the rule. God bless every single one of them!

In the meantime this is how we are dealing. When we have a string of errands to run, Luke wears a pull-up. When possible I just avoid the scene all together.

And more exciting, perhaps, Luke has started a daily listening therapy with the help of his outpatient OT. He wears special headphones that have AMAZING sound quality and listens to special CDs. The CDs play somewhat distorted classical music that helps him assimilate to certain sound frequencies that bother him. I think it is helping. He is at least more tolerant of the music. When we first started he would tell me that he was "all done listening," after just 5 minutes or so. Now he will listen the full 30 minutes without even complaining. We usually play games while he is listening: Go fish, number dots, blocks. But his very favorite is "Silly Hats" (Cranium-- the adult version-- modified for Luke.)

I hope there's a hand dryer frequency on there!


Sarah said...

Oh, sweet Luke. Thank goodness for sweet old ladies for sure!

So James does the music therapy of sorts, I don't know exactly. I think at first, he hated it, but now she'll use it to calm him down if he's really upset.

Keegan said...

Stacy, you are an awesome writer! I could totally see this and although I realize it is complete chaos for you to handle, it's pretty funny in writing.

All the time, I find myself thinking that people can be underrated-- when we were sitting in line at the free dental clinic for four hours and the whole time people were still polite to each other and offering their seats to old ladies. There really are a lot of nice people out there.

Russ and Ashley said...

I am so glad there are so many different types of therapy and that you are able to take advantage of them.