Breaking Out of the Toilet Talk Trap

One of the topics many of our readers express interest in is the relationship and dynamic between siblings where one or both have a disability. What does this bond look like? Is it any different? And while we aim to provide information about disability in today’s world, we find that sibling relationships are best illustrated through stories told by siblings and their parents.

That’s why we’re pleased to have Keith Hammond back with another post about raising two children who are both on the autism spectrum. His last entertaining post described his son Steven’s propensity to break iPads. After reading today’s guest post, I’m surprised Steven didn’t try to break his Dynavox, too!

Keith and his kids

Keith and his kids, Hillary (left) and Steven (right)

by Keith Hammond

As a parent of two children with special needs, I am often asked about how siblings with autism interact. Rather than try to explain, I think a story will illustrate it best.

My son, Steven, being non-verbal, relied on a Dynavox years ago. Steven’s Dynavox had two screens: an action screen and a noun screen. Steven could press a button on the action screen that said “I want to eat…” and on the noun screen, he could press his preferred item, say, “french fries.” The Dynavox would put the two together, and say in a robotic voice “I want to eat … french fries.” There was always a characteristically awkward pause in the middle putting the two screens together.

One day, we had taken the Dynavox to my wife’s cousin, Heather, who is a speech therapist in Columbus, Ohio. She tinkered around with it for about an hour or two, figured out how to program it, and added a few new things for us and his speech therapists at home. We figured that was that.

Well, Steven’s sister, Hillary, is really good with computers and an excellent visual learner. We had noticed she had been watching Heather program the Dynavox, but didn’t think anything of it. When we got home, however, our naivete was exposed.

Without our knowing, Hillary got her hands on Steven’s Dynavox and re-rigged it to where the noun was always the same, no matter what button was pressed. This was revealed when Steven began to say things like:

  • “I want to eat … poop.”
  • “I want to play with … poop.”
  • “I want a drink of … poop.”

Needless to say, Hillary was incredibly proud of her work and could not stop grinning. Neither my wife nor I could figure out how to reprogram a thing that an 8-year old figured out after a few hours’ observation. I could have watched the process for a couple of weeks and still never figured it out.

Thankfully, the school’s speech therapist was able to break us out of our trap of toilet talk. My wife and I scolded Hillary and told her not to do it again. Then, as any good parents will do, we shut the door and laughed ourselves silly.

As you can see, siblings with autism prank each other just as well as any other pair of siblings. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to…..poop.

Interested in reading more stories about siblings where one or both have a disability? Check out perspectives from other brothers and sisters here. We’d also love to hear stories about you and your siblings in the comments.


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