My son has always been a sensory seeker, especially with water. Over the years he couldn’t go near a water fountain without sticking his hands and possibly whole arm in. He’d get his leg in too if he could. Often times he will empty the soap dispenser bottle and I would end up needing to refill them on a daily basis.
Why do I keep refilling them you ask? Why not just stick a bar of soap in there for him to use? We used to do that and it worked for awhile however he started taking the soap apart and plugging the sink with it. Over the years we have done many things to either extinguish or replace a negative behavior. Sometimes we are successful for a period of time and other times the behavior may escalate into something much worse.
A lot of his automatic coping mechanisms have revolved around water. From flicking the water when it comes out of the faucet to the need to wash his hands over and over again if he is in distress. When he started going through puberty we saw other behaviors such as sticking his hand in the toilet and suddenly going into the shower and turning on the water.
Over time we found that for our family, accepting a behavior that is minimally disruptive was better than the consequences of escalated behavior especially since my son is now 13 and has been bigger than me for a couple of years.
In order to lessen the impact of this behavior, we do the following:
- Use foam soap pump dispensers as they use less soap – typically a ratio of 1 part soap to 3 parts water. You can buy the foam soap pump dispensers online but I found it cheaper to buy them when they’re filled with soap and on sale. I like the Method soap foam dispenser as I am able to refill them and get a lot of use out of them before having to replace them.
- Buy soap in bulk through Costco. I used to buy my favorite peppermint soap by Dr. Bronners however that is costly stuff to just pour down the drain so we switched to the bulk one that Costco sells.
- Fill the soap bottle up only half way in the two bathrooms that my son uses as it may get dumped by the end of the day.
By doing the above steps, we lessened the stress on ourselves. It used to drive us crazy seeing him dump out the soap and wasting it which made us more reactive than we would have liked. By making these changes, we were much less reactive since it was not a lot of soap in the dispenser anyway and we were using an inexpensive soap. Having a less reactive response from us led to a decrease in behaviors overall.
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