Tips for Potty Training for Children with Autism

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Potty training is never an easy venture, but for children with autism, it can be even more difficult. For most young children, the desire to “be like Mommy and Daddy” or to be “a big boy or girl” is a great motivator. But for children with autism, these reasons may not matter. Change, or the resistance to change, may also hold a child with autism back from potty training.


    Decide what method to use. Some examples of potty training methods include:

    • Take your child to the potty every ten minutes. Rewarding him when he remains dry or uses the potty. As he remains dry, slowly increase the time in between potty trips.
    • Create a schedule of potty trips, the organization Autism Speaks recommends 6 potty trips per day. Increase the time your child spends on the toilet as he gets used to it. Be sure to stick to the same schedule each day.
    • Spend as much time as possible in the bathroom, on the toilet. Have your child keep books, toys, etc in the bathroom and sit on the toilet as long as he is willing to increase the chance he will urinate or have a bowel movement.

    Despite the difficulties, children with autism can be potty trained. The following are some tips to help parents:

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    • Be sure to check with your doctor that your child is healthy. Children with autism often have gastrointestinal issues that can interfere with toileting.
    • Develop a routine for potty time. Your routine might be: going into the bathroom, pulling down pants, sitting on the toilet, using toilet paper, pulling pants up, washing hands. Create a picture diagram of the steps and keep in the bathroom for your child to follow.
    • Determine what rewards you will use for positive reinforcement. Rewards can be small toys, watching a video, favorite foods. Think about what your child’s favorite things are and which are easy to give as soon as he urinates or poops in the toilet.
    • Use simple words to describe the process. Use the same words each time so your child understands exactly what is expected.
    • Don’t compare your child to your neighbor, a friend’s child or your nephew. Each child is different and the fact that your child isn’t potty trained by a certain age doesn’t reflect on you as a parent. Take your time and make sure you and your child are ready for the process.
    • Give your child extra fluids to increase the chances he will urinate when on the potty.
    • Keep a log of what time your child urinates and has a bowel movement so you can base your potty trip schedule around it. Pay attention to how long it is between drinking something and urination.
    • Use easy to remove clothing.
    • Change diapers in the bathroom and follow the potty schedule as much as possible, including having your child pull down his pants and wash his hands after the diaper change.
    • Change your child as soon as he urinates. You may need to stock up on underwear or be prepared to wash underwear each day. Try to stay away from pull-ups except when sleeping or away from the house.
    • Take your child’s sensory issues into account. If there are smells or sounds (such as flushing the toilet) that disturb your child, toilet training is going to be more difficult. Make adjustments, such as flushing the toilet when your child has left the room and slowly have him move closer as you flush. Make sure the bathroom is a comfortable place for your child.
    • Start by letting your child sit on the toilet with clothes on, then move to pulling down pants but leaving the diaper on, then sitting on the toilet for a few minutes. Be patient and let your child get comfortable with each step.

    You will need to decide which is the best method for your child. Some of the previous tips won’t work for you but may work for others. Choose which tips you use.


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    “Toilet Training: A Parent’s Guide,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Autism Speaks









Published On: October 15, 2013