Donna Williams, newly qualified expert bath runner

This morning I ran a bath.

I ran that bath.

I then announced to my husband Chris that I could now run baths.

I’m 43.

I’ve been trying to run baths for 28 years.

I flood them, run them without the plug, run them cold, run the boiling, get in at the wrong time (ouch), forget them till they’re stone cold.
I’m sure this is familiar to all of you.

But imagine this is 80-90% of every bath you ever ran.
Its very hard to maintain confidence and keep trying.
So this time I waited till I had ran 3 months of baths which actually worked!
Then I was ready to say, yes, I can run a bath.

In childhood I got into the bath when made to.

At about age 9 I was made to bath with my infant brother.
That taught me about having bodies (because I could see objectively he was a little person in the bath) about soap and washing but I couldn’t work out that I had a whole body so I’d only rub some soap on one part or another.
Then I learned my body was like a road map and ran the soap all along the lines.

When I was about 11, I went to my cousins’ house and they played in the bath and that taught me having a bath could actually be fun and you could even laugh in the bath (now there was a novel concept) and I got into shampoo (and drinking it), bubbles (filled the WHOLE room with these once… I think it was washing powder in the bath) and then got into the bath in my clothes, washed my clothes then took them off to wash the body underneath (made sense to me but I couldn’t tell anyone what I was doing so it just seemed odd to them).

Then I realised the bath could be the one-stop-shop so I got in in my clothes, peed in them, washed the clothes, washed me then let the water out (yes, pretty gross but it was innovative and toilets do involve peeing then letting the water go so you might realise it was actually rather logical to use the bath in this inventive adapted manner but not really in keeping with the rules of the world – which I had no idea of and valued far more highly my individuality, autonomy and solitude).

Then came my teens and I learned to use the shower. Lots of getting burned, lots of flooding, lots of leaving the shower running for hours after leaving it, lots of people yelling. I learned to associate baths and showers with people yelling and being called stupid.
I kept trying.

I was assisted to leave my family’s house (they had more challenges than me) in my teens at 15, and living alone was big time chaos as you can imagine.

The details are in Nobody Nowhere and in fact my bath sagas are mentioned in many of my books, but regarding baths we are talking major flooding, weekly if not daily.

We are talking soggy neighbors ceiling, we are talking water through the entire flat, we are talking lots of mess and shouting.
I reverted to a wash cloth and a basin of water, it was safer.
Then living with men (this was the version of care in the community for folks like me with few living skills and no professional or family support) meant I could get into their bath, their shower.

So at least I’d mastered washing!
But I so wanted to really ‘get this’.

So I kept trying and I taught myself to get out of a boiling bath in my 30s and used a wall poster I made to sequence the running of a bath (when the plug goes in, the regulation of temperature, which order to put the body in).

But still the attention span and meaning blindness thing kept me flooding everything (forgot what the bath WAS or the noise).

So finally I started using a timer.
But I kept walking off from the timer!
I blocked the bathroom door so I couldn’t leave… that worked for a while… like an imprisoned cat…

I still forgot why I was there.
I got a louder timer with an alarm.
Then I progressed to carrying it with me via a rule that I was never allowed to leave a set timer without it coming with me.
Finally, finally, FINALLY, I can run baths.
I’m now going for one.

The moral is, even with half a brain, you can probably master something eventually if you keep trying new ways to counter the whole gamut of challenges which are obstacles to the activity.

🙂 Donna Williams
autistic author of 9 books in the field of autism newly qualified expert bath runner

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