So this morning Gavin was getting ready to go to OT….oh yeah Gavin has started OT again (I’ll post about that later). Anyway, Elliott came down stairs and told me that “Gavin needs to learn how to use mouthwash the right way”. I told Elliott Gavin doesn’t use mouth wash. Elliott said, “yes he is daddy and he spit it all over the sink”.  Let’s pause for just a minute to bring everyone up to speed. Gavin has struggled with PICA for many years. One of his most favorite things to ingest was mouthwash. We discovered this about 2 years ago. He had ingested a bottle of kids mouthwash. After a call to poison control and a trip to the ER we have removed this stuff from the house and have had to be very careful with our Listerine. Gavin has a laundry list of things he had consumed but for the purposes of this post mouthwash is the only one that is relevant.

So back to this morning. I called Gavin downstairs to question him about this. He immediately got upset, which tells me that I caught him doing something he shouldn’t have been doing. Turns out that he had received a bottle of mouthwash while at Akron Children’s Hospital last week. He brought it home and hid it in his room so we wouldn’t know he had it. Now, we had this conversation with Akron prior to his admission. We explained that he CANNOT have things like this, mouthwash in particular because he abuses it. Apparently, that conversation feel on deaf ears OR Gavin took it while he was there without their knowledge. Either way it presented itself this morning. Most of the mouthwash is gone but Gavin claims that he didn’t drink any of it. He claims he was using it for it’s intended purpose. Whether he was or wasn’t isn’t the point. The problem is that he deliberately hid this from us.  My guess is that he wasn’t drinking it this time because there is still some left. If he had been drinking this then based on past experience, it would most likely be gone.

The question now becomes, what do we do? This doesn’t help us to trust Gavin going forward. He knew what he was doing was wrong, hence the fact that he was hiding it from us. He just managed to slip up this morning and Elliott caught him. I’m at a loss here because there needs to be consequences for this but nothing seems to work. We met with Dr. R shortly after Gavin’s release for the psych unit to follow up and were discussing discipline. He has NO issues with any of the consequences we provide in response to Gavin’s behaviors. The only issue is that he doesn’t think anything will work. He says ( and correctly so), that kids like Gavin with bipolar type mood disorders, will stare down the barrel of a gun and never blink. He said, Gavin will butt heads with us to the end and go down knowing he didn’t blink. Well, something to that effect anyway…..you get the point.  What do we do now? No one has the answers for us. However, the best advice we have received at this point from Dr. R and Dr. Patti both is that our time and energies are probably better spent doing damage control with Elliott and Emmett to limit the impact Gavin has on them. While they’re right, it’s not what we wanted to hear. I want to find something that works on Gavin and I WANT to hold him accountable for these behaviors. This is why we have to pursue ideas conceived by thinking “outside the box”. I actually created a forum on the Autism Support page for just this topic.

I’m VERY open to ideas here. At this point the farther “outside the box” they are the better chance they probably have of being effective.

Rob Gorski

Full time, work from home single Dad to my 3 amazing boys. Oh...and creator fo this blog. :-)
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Bonnie Stewart

I don't know about consequences, but I have an idea about breaking an addictive bad habit like drinking mouthwash. Little strokes fell great oaks. When it comes to developing conscience in my kids with autism, I realize that the left brain does not communicate with the right brain very well. There is nothing from the analytical left brain to remind the impulsive right brain that this had a bad consequence last time.

So I have to painstakingly, build connections between those lobes. One son had a bad habit of looking at bad stuff on the internet. He was too old for a sticker chart, so I got him a daytimer and very small stickers. Each night I stopped at his room to see if he had gotten his sticker that day. He knew I was going to stop by. Every night that he knew he had not looked at bad pictures he added a sticker. He also knew we could check our filtering software, to see if he had been lying. So it was one of those things we could monitor. When he had gone thirty days-he got an appropriate reward.

I would do something similar with a sealed bottle of mouthwash. As long as he can keep it sealed you know he has stayed out of it. Maybe he could compete with himself to see how long he could go and then get a reward if he made his goal. But I know it isn't easy for a parent to keep this in mind on a regular basis. I had to wear an uncomfortable ring all that time to remind me to go by my son's room to check on him.

But it worked quite well and now I see him use that method himself when he wants to form a new good habit. Little strokes.


What a great idea. I think a slightly modified version of that may work with Gavin. Thank you for posting this. We were out of options now we have something to work with. 🙂