Toilet training can be a challenge for any family and can be even more difficult for a family with a child with autism. Sometimes kids get it quickly and other times it may feel like you will never stop buying diapers. Patience and consistency are key in toilet training.
From an ABA perspective, we take a systematic approach to toilet training, creating a step-by-step guide to help maintain consistency.
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This may seem like an odd first step, but before many of us start something new, we gather information about it. Well, the same goes for toilet training. Collect information on how frequently your child is eliminating in their diaper (both urine and bowel movements). Collect information on when they are eating and drinking, too. This will give you a better idea as to what their patterns are and how often you should plan to take them when the toilet training begins.
Create a schedule using the information you gathered and share this with everyone who will be involved in the toilet training process.
Use clear and simple instructions
This takes away from the extra stimulation. This includes social stories read before going to the bathroom and during, and visuals posted in the bathroom that outline each step in clear pictures and words. Another would be referring to the act of toileting in simple terms, such as “bathroom” or “time for potty.” Parents can also point to each picture as their child goes through the stages of toileting, so they have a reference to the end goal of the current step, and what is going to happen next.
Model the desired toileting behavior for your child. This can be done in many different ways, depending on your culture and beliefs. You can use social stories that you create or find online that are age-appropriate to demonstrate exactly what is expected. You can also demonstrate the behavior yourself (if you’re comfortable with this), or find other ways to model the expected toileting behaviors that are age- and developmentally appropriate.
Pull-ups can be confusing. They go up and down similar to underwear but can be soiled similar to diapers. While this means there may be many accidents, it is important to send clear messages and possibly, create the discomfort of being soiled to move the toilet training process along quicker.
Prepare for these by always having an extra change of clothing, including socks and shoes, having wipes on hand, and prepping the car for the possibility of an accident. Avoid shaming, overreacting, and criticism when accidents occur. Instead, provide a reminder of where they should go to the bathroom. Be sure to attend to and praise every instance of proper toileting, even attempts. This will show your child that proper behavior gets rewarded!
What does your child like? Show them you are proud they are learning something new, and that they are taking care of themselves. The reward used for toilet training should ONLY be used for toilet training so that the child does not get bored with it and is excited to earn it. Always provide verbal praise, like “Good job going pee-pee on the potty!” or anything else that provides descriptive verbal praise. Keep the rewards near—or even in—the restroom, so that toileting will become associated with a preferred item.
Patience and consistency
Toilet training can be very frustrating. Before taking on this challenge, make sure you and your family are ready. Once you start, you need to be consistent. Avoid toilet training only some days and using diapers other days. This can delay the process and create confusion. Typically, urinating in the toilet comes first, and then bowel movements in the toilet occur. Be patient and continue to follow the schedule. You can also re-evaluate the schedule by collecting more information as you go through the toilet training process.
Night-time toilet training also takes a little longer to establish. Be sure to take the individual to the bathroom right before bed and immediately when they wake up. Stopping fluids several hours before bedtime can also help reduce nighttime accidents.
And finally, if you are having difficulty toilet training your child, contact us! We can help!