Josh loves water. LOVES it. Did I mention that he really loves water? Loves to be in it, play with it, drink it, get rained on, you name it, he's all over it. And as with most things Josh, this has an upside as well as a downside.
I'm not sure when I first noticed his affinity for it. It's really been more of a gradual build-up I think, to the point now where it's a true obsession. I'm sure it's tied in to his sensory interests.
With both boys, from the time they were babies, I've never been shy about getting their faces all wet in the tub (pouring water over their hair to rinse it off, etc) as I figured that would help them not be too uncomfortable with it as they got older. Maybe that has worked out well as far as Josh goes, I'm not sure. I do know that I have never, ever had an issue washing his hair in the bath and rinsing it off, and this is going on 12 years now. We are probably lucky that way, as I know there are some autistic children who are so sensitive and/or fearful that water on the face or head can be a nightmare. So this is definitely on the upside of things. He asks for a bath often and many times a bath will be the only thing that can calm him down if he's in a particularly difficult mood. Of course, he loves bubbles in there too. I do have to use tear-free shampoo and bath bubble-stuff since he doesn't understand the concept of not getting it in his eyes (or eating it, but that's another story). That's ok. As long as they keep making it, which they will since there will always be babies in the world, we're good. Frankly, I like the way the little kid things smell better than the "manly" versions anyway!
He doesn't mind rain, in fact he will only leave the hood of his jacket on for a brief time then will just take it off. He likes getting wet. He'll hold his hands out open, palms up, to feel the rain drops as they fall. He even just likes watching the rain. This works well for us here, since the Pacific Northwest is a pretty rainy spot. It often makes him very giggly so I like the rain too - hard not like something that keeps everything green and makes Josh happy. I think the first time I really became aware that this was a "thing" for him, was the summer he was 3, I had taken the boys up to Vancouver Island to visit my dad. This was back at a time when Josh was particularly difficult (if you haven't already, see earlier blog post "That Woman with the Screaming Kid" for more on that). He'd been having a tough time one afternoon and then my dad went to get something outside. Josh followed him. It had been raining and was still, though very lightly, and there were a few small puddles outside the back door. All of a sudden Josh was no longer screaming, he was quiet. Then he was actually making happy Josh-noises. He was walking around in the puddles and getting rained on. It stopped the tantrum, I was amazed (aka very relieved). We took his socks off, rolled up his pants, and just let him play. My dad and I watched him for almost an hour. I have a few pictures, I'll post them in the gallery.
I think I mentioned that when we went out to Ohio the second time for training (the time we got Buddy), I booked us in a hotel with an indoor pool and we spent a lot of our down-time in it. Again, somewhat of an understatement. Pretty much every evening once we'd finished training for the day, I'd take the boys to the pool. Josh was in heaven. He cannot swim, there is really no way he could be taught, at least not at this point, so I had to hang on to him the entire time. But that was ok, he was very happy so it was nice for me too. Of course getting him out was always an exercise in patience. I had to give him several warnings first (one of our count-downs to being done with things he likes is "one more minute and we're going to be all done" swing, or pool, or whatever), then we would transition to the hot whirlpool. We'd get in slowly, he was a little nervous about it. He would sit on my lap and the three of us would hang out there for as long as the timer ran. Then I would give him another couple of warnings and we'd get out and head back to the room. Usually by that point he was toasty and tired enough he was ready to head to sleep for the night.
Water is also one of only two things he will drink. For a while, it was the only thing he would drink. This is not such a bad thing really, it's certainly good for him and better than juice. Also makes it easier when we are not at home, whether traveling or just out - you can always get water. At restaurants, on planes, even at our dojo. The downside to it is that because he also loves to play with it/in it and get wet, if he has some for drinking it has to be in a water bottle apparatus of some sort, with a lid and built-in straw, otherwise it will be all over the place. He mostly likes to pour it down the front of his shirt, he really likes the feel of wet clothes. Sometimes he'll just dump it on the floor though, and make his own "rain" puddles to play in.
The wet clothes thing is another issue as far as getting him potty trained. He LIKES his clothes wet. So there is very little incentive for him to not go in in his pants. Complicates things to say the least.
His penchant for water play also means we have to keep him away from all the sinks and bathrooms in the house. So many things to worry about. We have the temperature on the water heater set so that it won't get hot enough to scald if he ever did manage to get to a faucet on his own, but I would worry about his getting in a tub, and either falling and smashing his head or drowning. And yes, he has tried to play in the toilets. So we have child safety knobs on all the bathroom doors which for now and hopefully a long time to come, are doing the trick. I just have to keep an eye on the kitchen sink, though he's short enough still that it is harder for him to reach the handle to turn that one on. I just have to remember to not leave anything sitting in the sink with water in it because he has a radar for that sort of thing. It's almost as good as his Blue's Clues radar, but not quite. So the bathroom lock-down is not just to keep him away from the shampoo, though recently it seems that's been more of a draw than the water!
I do worry about his love of water as far as the outside world goes, there have been too many heartbreaking stories of autistic children who have wandered off and drowned in lakes or rivers. But we don't live close enough to any bodies of water to make it an immediate concern, and Josh has become much less interested in wandering off on his own over the last couple of years. I think it's just something I have to keep in mind when/if we go other places where it's more of a temptation.
If we lived anywhere near these guys http://www.surfershealing.org/ and Josh were able to swim, I think he'd love this. Water and sensory input all at the same time, how awesome! He might dig a wet suit too, though I imagine getting him in one might be a challenge... or he could just surf naked... or not. But I'll bet he sure would like it. Think they have Blue's Clues surf boards? :)