Kids On The Autism Spectrum: Potty Training
This year we wanted to do something different with our blog posts. Towards the end of last year we were asking parents and family members what they want to read about on Autism Blogs. So we will be discussing these topics over the months to come. If anyone would like to request a topic please do not hesitate to pop us a direct message/email or let us know in the comment section below.
The first one we are going to broach is potty training as this subject comes up a lot. Before we begin we would like to start by saying to all the parents, family members, carers, teachers and other individuals who are important to a very special child on the Autism Spectrum we here at Daliland think you are AWESOME!! and you are all basically superheros to us!
Please do not feel discouraged if your child is not potty trained or there are challenges in this area. Individuals on the Spectrum are wired differently and there is nothing wrong with them or their unique way of development. So if they are taking a bit longer than other kids in certain areas that is perfectly normal especially if you consider what they experience in their day to day life. They have a lot more going on than people may think.
Why is this topic important?
This one comes up a lot. It is true that some children on the Spectrum may start a bit later than other children in this area or may find it challenging. This is completely normal and the best one can do is find a way that works for their child. All children are different and thus different methods may work for some and not for others. So this area is really about trial and error.
We are just here to offer some suggestions and support where we can. We also hope that others comment with what has worked for them, so that we can all help each other. Our goal here is to try and provide our support but to also to nurture and create a safe platform for parents (and others) to share and help one another.
Before we look at what has worked it is important that you know when your child is ready. This can be tricky to determine but your child will let you know and as the parent you will know as well. Pushing a child before they are ready may backfire and turn the experience into a negative one which is what we want to avoid.
Signs for when your child is ready:
- They may tell you they are ready in their own way.
- They are taking off their nappy.
- They are doing their business in random places.
- They are making regular bowel movements.
- Being able to keep their nappy dry for at least one hour at a time.
- If they can sit on the toilet or potty.
- The only difference to verbal children would be how they communicate it to you: whether its gesturing or showing you that they are ready -again in their unique way-.
What has worked:
Using a timer and scheduled bathroom trips:
For this one to work open lines of communication between parents and teachers (if your child is at school) is imperative. Wherever your child is during the day there needs to be a very specific and consistent schedule followed with communication between parents and whoever your kiddo is with during the day. This is vital!
Visual aids may come in handy here as well and are proven to be quite effective. Please see below the visual aid we have put together for this article and can be used for this purpose. Start with going over the steps with your child using a visual, writing it out, drawing it or however your child learns best. Social stories also work in this situation. (We will be doing a post on social stories later on in the year, so keep posted for that).
Potty Training Visual Aid:
If there is already a visual schedule in use then this could be added onto the schedule as "toilet time" and possible incentives (discussed below) can be added to the schedule as well. To help with the familiarization of the process. If you have not used a visual schedule before please see ours below:
So you have now gone through the process with them a few times: a couple days or so (again depending on your child). The next step would be to actually physically go through the steps with them. For example show them "take off pants", or "sit on toilet". Once you have done that and familiarized them with the steps bring out that timer.
Using the timer:
Every hour is about the standard to start with. So set the timer for every hour. Then on the hour when the timer goes off you go (or whoever is with your kiddie) with him/her to the bathroom. Then go through the steps and sit on the toilet. Then reset the timer for as long as they are able to sit there. So whether it is 5 minutes or 1 minute start with that.
*NOTE: If every hour is too frequent or too much then create scheduled times according to what works. As long as it is consistent and scheduled!
Furthermore, forcing them to stay longer might cause anxiety or other issues and once again we do not want a negative association to form regarding the toilet. You can always work up to a longer time. Start off slow. Remember: "SITTING ON" the toilet is already an accomplishment! We know its hard but try not to get disheartened and move at your child's pace.
If your child can only sit their for 5 seconds then so be it and that is also great!! Familiarization and establishing a routine is all part of the process. Incorporating incentives into the steps may also help with encouragement. A fun activity or something they like scheduled (on the visual schedule) for after "toilet time" if they manage to sit a few seconds longer may help with encouragement. Once again whatever works for your kid and what they prefer.
What interests your child?
Another fun idea is to theme it around something they really like which might also help with motivation. For example: a social story explaining the steps but done by Marshall from Pawpatrol. So the story would have pictures with Marshall in there as well as other favorite characters. This is just an example. There are many things you can do here.
Play around and see what will attract your kid by using their specific interests. If this works for you: once they are comfortable start to slowly remove the "incentive" so that they do not become reliant on it to go to the toilet. Once you have a consist visit to the toilet going and a significant time on the potty/toilet you can start to increase the time and hope for the best!
This is an effective method however once again do not feel disheartened if it does not work right away or at all. It will take time and requires dedication as well as consistency. You are probably thinking: "we get it about consistency" and apologies for going on about it but it really is so important! We know this is very hard as people have very busy lives but if it is possible to do during the day then it is recommended to stick to that schedule!
We hope that this article has been somewhat helpful! We wish you all the best down this path and hope you find a way that works best for your child. If you would like any further information/resources or support please do not hesitate to contact us. Also if you would like to help others or share your experience please reach out. You can comment in the section below or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to read about your thoughts and what else we can do to try and help!
All the best,