Toilet Training ASD Style!

So.. if you find yourself on this page, you're probably going through the stress and woes of trying to toilet train your ASD child. Don't worry - you are not alone!

So, you've bought all the books, you've read all the online journals, you've spoken to all your mummy/daddy friends, you've heard and tried all the myths. BUT your child is still not toilet trained!

Ok. Take a step back. Calm yourself, and look at the situation in a whole new light. DO NOT use the milestones that people put out there of 'your child is 2.5 and STILL not trained?!?!!' Do not compare your child to every other child you see and do NOT under ANY circumstances think the issue is you. 

Toilet training can be hard for any child, with or without ASD. But as a Superhero ASD Parent you're going to need that little bit extra time, patience and training! 

So here are a few tips that I have picked up through a few years of experience of working with ASD. This is not a training manual, it is not DEFINITELY going to work for your child - every child is different - heck it may not work for anyone - it may work for one! But so long as this post helps someone or provides new options, then it has been all worthwhile!

So, starting toilet training. First - does your child recognise when they have gone to the toilet? Urinated or opened bowels? Yes? Fab. Next, do they recognise when it's about to happen? Yes? Fab. 

Do you have a lot of busy times ahead? Upcoming events? Birthdays, weddings, holidays that will shuffle your routine around? Yes? Don't start now. You should start it at a time where you know you are going to be have a consistent routine and are stress-free or let's be honest - just a little less stressed!

Now, if your child goes elsewhere make sure that they are also on board with the toilet training experience. This includes Schools, Nurseries, Day Care, Nanny , Grandparents, etc. Everyone needs to be on board and treating it the same so your child knows what is going on!

Don't forget, starting toilet training is a BIG change for our kiddos, so don't be alarmed if you see any changes in mood, temperament, behaviour etc. It's a big chance and can be a lot for them to take it - especially if they don't understand why!

When toilet training it's a good idea to start taking your child back and fore to the potty throughout the day. We tend to start off with - sit to the count of 10, then a few days later to 20, then 30 etc. just working your way up. Make the whole routine work - go to potty, get up, wipe, pull trousers up, wash hands, dry hands etc.

If you're child is non verbal, symbols are a great way for them to communicate. Put the 'toilet' symbol around as much as possible. Put it on the door to the toilet, on a keyring on your trousers, on a keyring on THEIR trousers, dotted on walls around the house - just make sure they know where they are so they can use this to request toilet!

Sometimes it can be easier to go straight to using the toilet as opposed to potty/baby toilet. This can be too much change for some ASD children and can cause more distress than support.

Rewards always go down great if they use the toilet - to urinate in or open bowels in. If they start in their pants/underwear, direct them to the toilet and try to get them to finish on the toilet - if they finish on the toilet this is an achievement and make sure they know that! Don't scald them if they start in their pants/underwear - we all have to start to learn somewhere!

 Rewards can be a number of things - affection, reward chart, sticker, food? (i've known a child who would go to the toilet to urinate/open bowels if it meant he could have a small chunk of chocolate, and I mean small but it worked!)

Visual/social stories can also be great here. Reading social stories together about using the toilet or even children learning to use the toilet. Have symbol stories/timelines so that they can follow the routine and become more independent. Don't panic and rush out and purchase an expensive software programme to make symbols, if you can't make them, i've known parents who have drawn them! I've even known of parents who have drawn stories with their children for them to follow and it's actually made them that bit more engaged. Obviously, myself working within the education side do insist upon trying to keep all symbols the same in every area of the child's life, but we have to be reasonable and this just isn't always possible! Be sure to contact your child's teacher/carer to ask if they could send you stuff home to help them too!

There are lots of free resources online such as videos

Coming out of nappies/pull-ups can be such a different experience for ASD children. The feel - texture, labels etc. Make sure the clothes are as your child likes them - some children prefer clothes tight, others like them loose! We have seem some funny moves pulled by children when they first go in pants! Squats, high legs - they love the freedom! 

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to keep a diary of when the child goes to the toilet. Do this over a period of a few weeks - see if there is a pattern or even a time frame - between 7-8 am, between 2-2.30 etc. These are the times best to encourage your child to head to the toilet. Get into a routine and see if this helps matters.

Now for the tricky part. Night. 

Toilet training through the night can be really hard. It may be best to first tackle day time training and keep pull-ups for night for a little while until the day is tackled depending on how you feel your child will best cope. Every child is different. Please do not take my words of advice as the law of toilet training - they are not.What works for one may only ever work for one so don't feel distressed if it doesn't work and don't worry if your opinion differs - we all have opinions and if they work for us - that's great!!

For bedtime I would suggest cutting down drinks before bed, trying not to have a huge beaker/cup of drink next to the bed - especially if your child is a comfort drinker. Take your child to the toilet/bathroom before bedtime try to encourage them to go to the toilet now - this could be through stories etc. Once they wake up in the morning, I would suggest taking them to the bathroom/toilet area to see if they are ready to go. For a little while they may not last the night but reward every tiny bit of progress - it's a huge achievement to be toilet trained and takes a lot of hard work!

Be sure to have a lot of spare pants and clothes to hand! Be understanding - toilet paper may be an issue so offer wet wipes, the toilet seat could be an issue they may want to clean it first, they may be scared of the flush to start with, they may not be able to get onto the toilet comfortably - invest in a small step. There are always work arounds you just have to look in the right places and find people who have had experiences and can share theirs!

If you feel your child is having worrying issues regarding bladder control etc be sure to visit your GP, it could be something else and it's always better to be safe. Remember, work together with others involved with your child so that everyone is being consistent with them!

Please remember that these views are my own, from experiences working with children with autism. They are not going to work for every child with autism, they are not absolute guidelines you HAVE to follow, they are not the absolute correct answer. Not everyone will agree with the processes that we each take, but each individual child will have individual needs resulting in lots of different ways to teach ASD children. Why not share your views below in the comments - it's great for us all to learn from each other and gather new ideas on what has worked best for others!


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