Potty-training My Child with Autism

By: Paul Napier

It was inevitable. At some point in your child’s life they were going to leave diapers behind and use a toilet. And while for some kids this process is a breeze, for others it’s a hurricane. Having a child with autism can introduce even more unknowns. That being said, autism doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a harder time with potty training. There are many things you can do to help make potty training easier.

Do It When They Are Ready

Kids know when they are ready to get rid of diapers. For most children, this happens before kindergarten. To give you and your child the best chance for success, look for signs of readiness like:

  • Dry diapers upon waking.
  • Curiosity with the toilet.
  • Taking off own diapers.

Celebrate the Potty!

For a child with autism, new ideas and objects that come into their lives can be disruptive. The best thing to do is to try to get your child excited about the potty and build it up as a fun and exciting step into the world of big boys and girls. Make up a potty dance to do when they try to go potty, praise and reward successful attempts, and get books to read to them and watch shows about using the potty.

Choose Their Potty Wisely

If your child has sensory issues, you’ll need to pay close attention to the materials and even sounds used on some of the potties on the market today.

  • Avoid a potty that is too visually distracting or even noisy as these could deter your child from using it.
  • Assist your child as they select their potty to pick colors and characters that they like.
  • Check the textures of the potties available.

Relate what you have already learned about your child’s sensory needs to the potty you want to buy. The last thing you want is a potty that can trigger fierce avoidance and a meltdown.

Model Toileting Habits

While this may sound like a potentially embarrassing situation (and it can be), it is an essential piece to help your child learn how to go to the bathroom. Model correct toileting habits like how to get on a toilet, how to wipe yourself, and how to properly wash your hands afterwards.

Keep Potties in Central Locations

Because potty training is all about getting there in time, it can help to have several potties and spread them out in your home. This will take the pressure off of getting to the household bathroom in time.

Teach Signs for the Nonverbal

Just because your child is nonverbal doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to use the potty like other kids their age. Being nonverbal on its own, however, is not a reason to stop from trying. Teaching your child the signs in sign language for going potty, or even making up your own, can help your child use the bathroom. Show pictures of children going potty and practice signing it with them. Assist them like you would any other child to use the potty, praise achievements, and follow their lead.

Create a Potty Reward Chart

A potty reward chart can go a long way. Whether each potty trip earns them a chocolate chip or 5 successful visits gets them 10 extra minutes on their iPad, use rewards to fuel them towards their goal. The trick is to find out what reward motivates your child and use it as a tool for potty success.

Potty training a child with autism can be just as “easy” as potty training a typical child. For some it may even come easier if they can develop a new routine around it. The most important point to remember is to be patient and don’t force it if you don’t have to. Focus on your child achievements one step at a time and celebrate every one. Before you know it, diapers will be a thing of the past!