fecal smearing

How to Help Reduce Fecal Smearing in Children with Autism

Co-written by Jessica Wein MSW, LSW

In order to change or eliminate a behavior, such as fecal smearing, it is important to first understand the function of the behavior. There is a reason your child is engaging in this behavior, so understanding the motivation behind it will best inform the type of intervention/s to employ. One way to ascertain the necessary information, is to find out the “ABCs” of the behavior:

A- Antecedent; what occurs directly before and/or leading up to the behavior (fecal smearing)?
B- Behavior; the behavior itself
C- Consequence; what occurs after the behavior including reactions of caretakers?

Motivations to engage in smearing fecal matter can range from attention seeking purposes to serving a sensory input need. In some cases, there can be several motivations for the child to engage in this behavior.

Once you know the “ABCs” of the behavior, you can then manipulate certain aspects of the environment (i.e. the antecedent and/or consequence) as means to change or eliminate the behavior altogether.

For children on the autism spectrum, it is important to utilize a behavioral approach, using few (if any) words. It is also important for the caregiver to remain emotionally neutral when the child is engaging in fecal smearing. Specifically, not showing a positive or negative reaction. It can also be helpful for the caregiver to reward and provide consistent, positive praise when the child engages in more ideal behaviors. By giving attention to positive behaviors, the child will learn which behaviors earn positive attention and/or desired rewards.

What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

Some helpful tips to reduce fecal smearing:

  • Social stories which reinforce the routine of appropriate bowel care
  • Clothing which can inhibit access: for example back zip footed pajamas
  • Messy play

Children may seek different types of input from poop smearing such as scent, texture or the temperature. To accommodate these sensory experiences try:

  • Scent: smell sharp smelling cheese or play doh that is scented
  • Touch: play-doh; slime
  • Visual: finger painting; shaving cream



Fandango With Kids: Tips For A Trip To the Movies

Summer is meant to be active, fun, and exhausting for children but sometimes the weather just won’t cooperate. What do you do on days when they can’t run outside, swim, or barbeque? You Fandango! Remember these words of wisdom for the best theater experience with your children.

 Top tips for a trip with kids to the movies

  1. Choose a very child friendly film. You can even look up the sensory friendly screenings in your area.Empty Movie Theater
  2. Consider bringing your own snacks, especially if your child has special dietary needs.
  3. Remember that you don’t have to stay for the entire movie. Your child may only be able to handle half, and that is OK.
  4. Bring another adult if your children need to be able to get up or go to the bathroom quickly. You may need an extra pair of helping hands.
  5. Bring headphones to reduce the sound if your child is sensitive to loud noises.
  6. Teach your child movie time rules before making the trip so he/she knows what is expected ahead of time. Bring a reward chart if that helps.
  7. Enjoy the show!