Potty Training Children with Autism
by Catherine Cheshire
Catherine Cheshire is a busy working mother of four with over 20 years experience in consumer health products and a massive amount of both research and “hands-on” experience in potty training.
ABA therapy (Applied Behavior Analysis) is viewed as one of the safest and effective therapies for children with an autism spectrum disorder. This is done by taking a task and breaking it up into smaller steps fueled with positive reinforcement. I chose to use this method while potty training my daughter.
What I began by doing is checking my daughter's diaper every 50 minutes just to see how much she went, to get an idea of how long she goes and what times I should take her to the bathroom. If they don't go to the bathroom that often I suggest giving them more water or fluid so they will go more often.
With that information lets say your child is going every 30 minutes, take them a little earlier, take them 20 minutes. Along with that while potty training I chose to put her in Handcraft training pants. Training pants are more absorbent than regular underwear. I wanted to avoid big accidents but still wanted her to feel the sensation of what an accident feels like.
Now you need a word so your child knows they need to use the bathroom, this can be something like “potty time!” or “bathroom!” If they're non-verbal you can make it a hand sign, whatever it is just make sure it is consistent. Along with that make sure everyone knows what sign you are using. This goes for daycare providers, mom/dad, and everyone exposed to your child.
Rewards. Not all kids like sticker charts and will be motivated by them, rewards don't have to be big, just something you know they like. It may help to use visual aids if your child learns better this way for example you can print or draw something resembling a toilet with clear water = 5 minutes of free time, yellow water = 10 minutes of free time, and so on. A thing I realized that works as a good reward are character underwear and training pants. When children have their favorite TV show characters they are more excited to wear them and keep them dry. You can find these online or at any local retailer!
Next, it is time to break everything into steps, I broke it down into 8 steps to work with. Remember after each to use praise to motivate your child and let them know they're doing a good job! Especially after step 3, you can expect 3 different outcomes, they just sit on the toilet, they pee or they poop. Be just as- or even more excited for them.
- Go into the bathroom and close the door
- Unbutton and pull down pants
- Sit on toilet 3-5 minutes
- Pull up pants
- Turn on sink
- Wash hands with soap
After potty training is mastered, it's time to start teaching wiping. I recommend using the hand over hand method, follow all the steps with your child but with you hand over their hand. This allows you to know they are doing it correctly and to help them out. In total, remember potty training is a process that doesn't just happen overnight. Make the most of this milestone with your children.