The reason a person on the autism spectrum might smear their faeces could be medical, sensory or behavioural and include:

  • feeling unwell or in pain.
  • being reluctant to wipe because toilet paper is too harsh.
  • not knowing where faeces needs to go.
  • seeking out sensation from texture, smell or movement of arms during smearing action.
  • seeking attention/wanting a reaction.
  • fear of toilets.

You could try to:

  • visit the GP or dentist to make sure that there are no physical reasons involved, like being in pain.
  • replace toilet paper with wet wipes, or a tepid shower.
  • teach them the wiping process, ‘hand over hand’ ie putting your hand on top of their hand as they wipe.
  • provide an alternative with a similar texture, eg papier-mâché, Gelli Baff, gloop (corn flour and water), finger painting, play-dough.
  • provide alternative activities at times when the smearing usually takes place.
  • make a structured timetable of the day, showing times when the person can do appropriate smearing activities.
  • avoid asking the person to clear up after themselves, or telling them off, as this may reinforce the behaviour.
  • use minimal interaction, avoid paying too much attention or showing too much reaction.
  • set up a toileting routine
  • use body stockings to prevent smearing.

Further information

If you are reading this information from a print-out, you can visit the web page and find out more at www.autism.org.uk/challengingbehaviour

Last reviewed: 17 November 2016.