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Potty Training a Child with Autism: The Toughest Case

Potty training can be a very challenging process, and even when you have a plan in place there will more than likely be issues that arise. Potty training children with autism can add additional challenges, but potty training is still possible. It is important to remember that potty training is a process that takes time, so be patient and eventually your child will be potty trained.

Keys for successfully potty training a child with autism:

  • Always start with urine training – It is much easier to control fluid intake, and urinationPotty Training a Child with Autism: The Toughest Case occurs more frequently. After your child is successfully urine trained, you can then work on bowel movements.
  • Create a reward system to reinforce positive toileting behaviors – Start with basic toileting skills (i.e., sitting on the toilet) then begin rewarding additional behaviors such as going in the toilet, requesting to go, etc.).
  • Do not use punishment for accidents – Always keep in mind that your child is learning and accidents are a part of that learning process. If you punish accidents your child could begin to associate normal bodily functions as something bad. The preferred method of handling accidents is to provide natural consequences such as making them assist in the clean-up, making them change their own clothes, etc.
  • Create a toileting schedule – This will keep both you and your child on track. In the beginning you can start taking your child to the bathroom every 15 minutes. After following this schedule for a week or two you can adjust the time either up or down depending on how well they are doing.

Potential challenges of potty training a child with autism and how to handle them:

  • Child will not sit on the toilet – If this happens you will need to pair the toilet as something reinforcing. The best way to do this is to withhold their favorite toy such as an iPad and only let them play with the item when they are on the toilet. You can set a timer so they know how long they need to sit. Start with a shorter time, and then slowly increase the amount of time they need to sit.
  • Child will only urinate or have a bowel movement in their diaper – The quickest solution for this is to completely eliminate diapers. If there are no diapers in your home, your child can’t rely on using them anymore.
  • Child will sit on the toilet, but will have an accident as soon as they get off the toilet – In this situation you will need to sit your child on the toilet, and continue to give plenty of fluids and have them sit there until the go. Once they eventually go, reward them.
  • Child will never ask to use the bathroom – This can be common in children with autism since often times they have communication challenges. The best way to address this is to teach them how to communicate when they need to go to the bathroom from the start. Use whichever mode of communication they are currently using (i.e., vocal, sign language, PECS). Prior to taking them to the bathroom, prompt then to request to go.


Potty Training 101: The Easy How-To Guide For Parents Download our free, 15-Page eBook

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What to Do When Your Child has a Potty Accident

Potty training can be difficult.  Throughout the process there can be slip-ups and accidents.  If you have a child who is already potty training, or if you have a child who exhibits signs that he or she is ready to start potty training, then keep these helpful strategies in mind for when an unavoidable accident occurs.

Strategies for dealing with a potty accident:

Potty

  1. Environment:  Create a friendly and inviting bathroom environment.  Provide different books that your child can read while she sits on the toilet.  You can even offer to play different songs while your child sits on the toilet and tries to go potty.
  2. Schedule:  Make sure that you, along with everyone who is with your child throughout the day, is on the same potty schedule.  Using this potty schedule, select a certain amount of time that you want your child to practice going on the potty.  You can start with having your child go to the potty every 30 minutes.  Set a timer. When it goes off, have your child stop what she is doing and try to go to the potty.  After she tries, reset the timer and wait for the next 30 minute potty try.  If your child is still having accidents on a 30-minute schedule, switch to 15 minutes intervals to catch the accident before it happens. Read more