Parent and carer support

How to cope with smearing

faecal smearing

For the families that are dealing with it, ‘faecal smearing’ or ‘poo smearing’ is a topic that cannot be ignored. It’s uncomfortable for most parents to talk about and happens more often than we want to acknowledge.

Why? No one knows why children smear their poo. It could be for any number of reasons: to have the sensory experience of playing with their faeces; to attract attention; a form of manipulation; stress relief; or just plain boredom. Regardless of the reason, it happens and it can be very embarrassing. Children with autism will smear poo on anything they can lay their hands on like themselves, toys, walls, carpet and unfortunately young siblings if they can’t get away fast enough!

Having to clean it up can leave the strongest parent in tears. Not only is it an unpleasant job, there’s no guarantee that it won’t happen again the next day! Fortunately, most children either grow out of it or learn that it’s a socially unacceptable and unhealthy behaviour.

In the event that a child does smear, we have some suggestions on how to clean it up and cope through the situation. There are two main surfaces in your home that faecal matter will end up which is flooring (tiles, wooden floors and carpet) and walls (including doors and windows). In either case Wonsie UK suggests having a ‘cleaning kit’ that is handy to access at anytime so you don’t waste your time running around looking for things.

What should be in your cleaning kit? We’ve made a short list we recommend:
• Rubber gloves
• Cleaning cloths
• Bucket
• Detergent/disinfectant
• Carpet washer/cleaner and steam mop

When cleaning up, regardless of the surface, it’s a good idea to wear gloves at all times. Any large pieces of poo can be removed with toilet paper and flushed down the toilet. Using the bucket, fill it with warm water and detergent and remove any excess poo.

For carpet and tiles use a carpet washer or cleaner to do the rest. Choosing the right cleaner is important for a deep clean and one that dries the carpet quickly. For tiles, use a steam mop that is powerful enough to remove excess faeces from the tiles and as well as the grout so that no odour and bacteria remain.

For cleaning walls and doors, use the cleaning cloth and warm water and detergent to get any remaining faecal matter removed.

Following these simple steps will minimise the stress of the cleaning process and will reduce the impact it has on you and your family.

Of course, there is no cure for this but there are certainly ways to curb the cause and consequence of smearing and make your life a little bit easier.

SpecialKids.Company suggests the following four steps to help with your daily life:

1. Pay close attention. We suggest that you get in sync with your child’s bowel movements and know when they are about to have one so you can change their soiled nappy right away. Changing it immediately will reduce the likelihood of your child reaching into the nappy.

2. Share the cleaning up. This is a critical process in the development of an autistic child. Getting them to help with the cleaning up allows them to understand the consequences of their actions. It’s more than likely that your child will hate doing this but will learn to understand how unsanitary the behaviour is.

3. Limit access. Limiting your child’s access into their nappy is crucial. In the past, parents have devised clever ways to prevent access to nappies varying from sewing tops and bottoms together to duct taping clothes. It was for these reasons that SpecialKids.Company was born. The primary function of our products is to prevent wandering hands from accessing nappies. The garments have a longer leg, which makes it difficult for the child to access the nappy and keeps it in place while providing a warm layer. The crotch is reinforced to withstand repeated attempts of stretching the garment while attempting to smear and undress. We’ve tried to think of everything. Any ideas are welcome as we are continually improving in little ways that make a difference, so email us at info@SpecialKids.Company.

Photo of child in a SpecialKids.Company garment

4. Redirect the sensory experience. Never forget your child’s need to have a sensory experience. So in order to prevent smearing, try redirecting their sensory needs to clay, silly putty or finger painting. And of course…lots of bear hugs never go amiss!

Depending on your child’s developmental stage, rewards in the form of a favourite treat may curb or stop your child from smearing.


Sasha Radwan from SpecialKids.Company has written this blog post for parents who have to cope with faecal smearing. Bristol Autism Support receives no financial benefit from SpecialKids.Company. We found this information so helpful, we wanted to share it with other families.


Note from Bristol Autism Support: For balance, we have included the following links to other companies that also sell larger size popper vests:

Marks & Spencer now supply larger sized popper vests and tops, click here to see their new specialist range

Rackety’s supply vests in a variety of styles and colours

Fledglings sell sleeveless, long sleeved and short sleeves popper vests in larger sizes:

About the author

Sasha Radwan

Sasha Radwan

Sasha Radwan is the founder and director of SpecialKids.Company