Daniel doesn’t want to have to wear underwear anymore.His sensory integration issues include mild tactile sensitivity. Daniel has always hated wearing underwear, which are sometimes distractingly uncomfortable to him.
An underwear rule was put into effect last spring.I was sitting in a meeting with Daniel’s teachers, classroom aide, the school’s ESE liaison and the school’s principal.Daniel’s teacher cleared his throat several times. He suddenly looked very uncomfortable.
“There is another issue we need to address. That is Daniel touching himself.” Mr. Skow rushed on, “He tries to be discreet by doing it with his hands in his pocket.Right now, it isn’t an issue because the other kids haven’t started to notice.However as he gets older, other kids are going to notice and be very uncomfortable.”
I take a deep breath. I suddenly feel hot and am sure my face has blushed a deep red. I have waited for this conversation since Daniel started school. I have heard men describe that warm weather results in sweating in the genital area. Living in Florida, this happens frequently to Daniel.However, I have noticed that sometimes it seems almost constant.
“Daniel has explained that he has what he calls a ‘sticky penis’,” Mr.
Skow continues, unable to look directly at me, “but I think it can become excessive. So, we have come up with a signal for ‘show me your hands’ to help him.” Mr. Skow pauses, looking up at me.
Life with Daniel can often detour into the embarrassing. Daniel forgets to close the door when taking a bath or dressing in his bedroom; he almost never remembers to flush the toilet, and he sometimes struggles to correctly clean himself after a bowel movement. When my husband and I first began to live together, this caused some awkward moments with his two older kids. Life with Daniel forced me to confront the parental pitfall of measuring my worth as a parent solely by my child’s behavior.
Daniel doesn’t mean to be rude or inappropriate. It simply doesn’t cross his mind. Daniel’s world allows for anonymity reminiscent of a very young child. For example, if he isn’t supposed to be playing his Gameboy then he will hide under his comforter.He believes that since he can’t see me, I can’t hear the game and won’t notice the large boy-shaped lump under the covers.
Although sometimes humorous, it has led to several mortifying situations. The clearest example was during gymnastics camp several years ago.Everyone was told to get their swimsuits and change for pool time. Daniel walked to his cubby in the hall.He took out his swim trunks and began to pull off his clothes.He was completely oblivious to the obviously embarrassed girls standing beside him.A compassionate counselor, familiar with Daniel’s struggles, intervened and got everything straightened out. In that moment Daniel was focused on a favorite activity, the pool and everyone around him ceased to exist.
So, the underwear rule was enacted. He must wear underwear every day he goes to school. The extra layer of fabric seems to help.
Like John Forbes Nash in “A Beautiful Mind”, who bypassed the struggle of his schizophrenic hallucinations by asking a third person to verify the existence of any new acquaintance, Daniel must also make firm rules to guide him in areas where his perception does not match the reality of the situation. This does not prevent Daniel constantly resisting.
Today, as we drove home, he was more fidgety than usual.
“Mom! It is still sticking! I told you underwear wouldn’t work.”
“Daniel, you need to put powder on in the morning. We have talked about this before but you never do it.”
“I forget. You need to put it on my list.”
“It is on your list. It is part of ‘Get Dressed’. The powder is in your bathroom.”
“No, it needs to be on my list, like powder….”
Trying not to laugh, I say, “What? Powder your penis?”
“No.” He gives me a look of disgust, “Like powder #1 front side.”
Awesome! I just have to laugh and hope that as Daniel grows up, he will have people in his life that understand him and love him like I do.