Potty training your child is often a challenging job, which gets trickier when your child has autism. However, not all autistic children are the same and their potty training difficulties also vary despite having the same overarching disorder. They can suffer a number of toileting related troubles. Such as:
- Withholding a bowel movement
- Being afraid of the toilet
- Fecal smearing
- Continuously flushing the toilet
- Filling the toilet with paper or other items
- Continued use of diapers
- Going other places than the toilet
However, all of these troubles can be overcome with time if handled with patience, care, support, and some smart tactics. Here are things you need to know about autism potty training:
Why Is It Difficult to Potty Train a Child with Autism?
One of the main characteristics of a person with autism is they don’t like changes, which means they do everything in a particular manner as they are used to doing it. This is why it takes more effort to make them accept something new, like using the toilet as opposed to wearing diapers.
At the same time, this can be seen as a blessing since once you get to train them properly and they are comfortable with it, they will most likely carry the practice on their own if there are no further distractions.
When to Start Potty Training
Before you decide to start potty training your autistic child’s potty training, it is better to consult a pediatrician who can warn you of possible complications that may arise and suggest when to start training.
Also, you can observe your kid to figure out if they are ready for the training. Here are some signs you can look for:
- They let you know when they have peed or pooped in their nappy or clothes. They may tell you verbally or express through a sign or gesture.
- They are able to follow easy instructions, so if you tell them to sit on the toilet, they can.
- They can pull down and pull up their pants.
- They have a regular and almost routined bowel movement.
- They have enough control over their bladder to not pee or poop for at least one hour at a time during the day.
Preparing your child for potty training in general would also be a good idea. Here, the procedures are almost the same as it is with the average children. It may require just a little more time and tricks.
How successfully you manage to communicate with your child and how interestingly you can initiate the process will decide how well and fast they are going to learn. You can start with steps as simple as introducing your kid to the toilet, such as its purpose and how to use it.
Remember to take it one step at a time rather than doing everything at once. The whole procedure is going to take time. Keep your patience up, and once your child becomes familiar with the toilet, gradually start further training.
How to Potty Train Your Child with Autism
As stated earlier, potty training kids with autism might be a work of patience and should be planned step by step to avoid unnecessary irritations for both you and your child. Here are three strategies you can apply.
1. Compliments and Rewards
The point is to encourage them to use the toilet every time they need to. Once they figure out that doing a certain act brings them gifts and they are being loved and appreciated more by their parents, they will tend to do it, or at the very least they will try.
Use Descriptive Praise means complimenting in a way that it becomes obvious why they are being praised for a particular thing, such as sitting on the toilet properly.
Nonverbal Compliments show your appreciation through a gesture or a sign. Such as clapping, showing a thumbs up, giving a high five, blowing a kiss, and more.
- Make a chart for his expected activities and add a star once one is completed.
- Let your child play with their favorite toy after every successful attempt.
- You can also make them their favorite food as a reward.
Being a mother, you will always know what your child would like the best, so feel free to be creative to keep his spirit high. But make sure they know what they are being rewarded and be careful not to overuse a reward as that, too, can be hard to break.
If you feel confused about what they’re going to like as a reward, present a number of choices and watch their reaction to each of them. Pick what they like the most.
2. Training with Visuals
Visuals often help kids with autism learn quickly and support them with keeping things in a routine. You can make a chart with visuals showing them the steps one by one to complete the process. Hang that chart near the toilet or potty so they can easily watch and follow the visuals.
People who help them with toileting should also maintain it strictly.
3. Story Telling
Create a story for every situation they may encounter regarding using a toilet in your home or away. Describe these stories with simple lines and clear pictures that your child can understand and are easy to grasp from their perspective.
When you are describing a situation, make sure you add details without skipping points. Also suggest what they should do in a particular situation and explain how they should do it.
A Few Other Things to Remember
- Skip potty training if they are finding difficulty in the change.
- Don’t show your frustration after a failed attempt. Appreciate them for their efforts and move on. Don’t stretch the situation, and don’t talk about it later either.
- This may take several failed attempts; make sure no one makes fun of them.
- Be specific with the communication. For example, if you tell them to sit on the potty, tell them to sit on it so they can pee.
- Teach your children to tell you when they need to go to the toilet. Teach them a particular way so they can use it to express themselves.
- The whole family should use a particular word for using the toilet since there are many synonyms in use. Avoid using different words for the same object, which can confuse the child. Use one word that is comfortable for everyone in the home.
- Don’t make him sit for too long in the toilet since it may make him feel like he is being punished; five minutes should be enough.
- Keep yourself calm since your child may not be quick to learn and might find some difficulty in coping with the changes.
There is actually no fixed age or pattern for children with autism when it comes to potty training. Your love, patience, and determination are the things you will need the most during this whole journey. So hold on to them and keep your hope high as you approach the process; stay strong, and stay positive.