Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Musings on nakedness, part 1.

I remember hearing from parents with kids on the autism spectrum about their kids' struggle with keeping clothes on.  I've heard many theories, various strategies, some unsuccessful.   The coping strategies run the gamut from hostility to embracing nakedness.  A parent even shared a video of them doing all their learning activities together, with the kid stark naked. I thought it as cute and was so grateful that wasn't me.

Fast forward a few years. Jaedon has become increasingly resistant to wearing clothes. He is belligerent when faced with my persistent attempts to keep him dressed. If you were to walk into my living room, you would see shirts and shorts and pants strewn haphazardly, left wherever Jaedon tossed them. Jaedon does not merely step out of his clothes, he throws his arm back and lets them fly. On more than one occasion, my quiet reading or reflection has been interrupted by a pair of sweats landing on my lap, or hitting me in the back. The temperature in the house does not seem to impact the need for nakedness, although, winter or summer, he does prefer to have a blanket around him when sitting or lying down.

I have mixed feelings about nakedness. On the one hand,
  • Being dressed, especially in the winter, will help him keep warm and better protect him from being sick.
  • Private parts aren't private if everyone sees them.
  • People are typically not comfortable with naked teenagers. Nakedness conjures up images of insanity and many adults around us seem triggered to panic when faced with it.
  • People's concerns and fears about sexuality and sexual abuse can also be triggered.  
  • Not many people can handle the images presented, so guests to our home are few (though they were few even before this new feature of Jaedon-ness).  
  • Nakedness is the height of socially inappropriate behavior. It reflects badly on our parenting and people tell us in words and otherwise.  
  • Not only that, but popular opinion is that our other children will be psychologically damaged as a result of seeing Jaedon examine his genitals.  
  • Nakedness becomes one more thing to project into the future and wonder, 'Will people treat him well when I'm not here?'
On the other hand,
  • We are in his family, so it's ok if we see his private parts.  He's home and this is his private domain.
  • We have the heat on pretty high, so he's rarely cold
  • Jaedon feels more comfortable when he's naked these days, and when he's more comfortable, the anxiety level in the house is less.  Less aggression and tantruming is definitely what I want right now.  Plus, we don't really know why he wants to be naked.  Perhaps exploring that, is a (slow) route to helping him be dressed (not that insisting is at all the 'fast' route).
  • There are fewer clothes to wash.  This is a big deal because his not really potty trained state makes for very messy clothes.  Getting him clean is easier.
  • The children don't seem to be really bothered for themselves.  In their words, they are used to it. They fluctuate between hardly noticing that he is naked (he's 14. It's hard to miss) and wanting to be like him and just take off their clothes. Clothes itch in the winter, I'm told.
  • He has decided to get dressed to eat and to play with Rita.  On some days, he even stays dressed for several minutes at a time.  Maybe nakedness isn't permanent.
I think I'll stop there. Maybe nakedness isn't permanent. That has me thinking about my reactions to the various things my other kids have moved through, even the things Jaedon has moved through. Nothing is permanent.  Let me sit with that for a few days.  I'll tell you more later.

In the meanwhile, I'm going to go love on my son, whose nakedness is but a really small piece of his personhood, his Jaedon-ness.

1 comment:

  1. Faith, what a cool topic. A bunch of things occurred to me.

    The first was: accept, then change. It seems that we humans can be awfully resistant to change when imposed upon us by people who don't accept us as we are. Embracing's way better than just accepting.

    The second was: make change a game.

    My grandson Logan had a stroke during or near birth. A side effect of the stroke is that Logan has some of the same neurosensitivity that you see in kids with autism.

    In particular, his tactile system is super sensitive. Clothing can really bother him (specially if his clothes get wet) and he hates sensations like wet sand clinging to his feet (or at least he did.)

    A couple of years ago on a family trip to the beach, Logan wanted nothing to do with the water or sand. Walking near the water, his bathing suit got wet and he became inconsolable. So, Iris took Logan by the hand and asked if he just wanted to take off his suit (he was four at the time).

    Logan took off his suit and Iris held him up so that the waves couldn't "get him."

    Iris started taunting the waves, calling out to them. Logan joined her. She sat down in the sand, holding Logan in her lap so that they could gesture to the waves as they taunted them.

    Logan got so involved in the game that he didn't notice he was standing and then running in the wet sand.

    The third was: I don't like clothes either. I wear sandals and shorts nine months out of the year, and, except when it rains, I'll wear sandals over my wool socks. I avoid wearing anything with long sleeves and all my clothes are quite loose.

    I remember when my mom finally gave up and let me buy the loose fitting, "sloppy" clothes that I wanted to wear. It was liberating.

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