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Saturday 29 Nov 2014

Potty Training Your Child With Autism

Child Bathroom

What would you say if I told you potty training can be accomplished in less than 3 days? Would you call me crazy? Well I’m here to tell you that it is completely possible, but it’s not going to happen without a lot of hard work. There are so many books out there written for parents of all kinds, but as a parent of a child with autism you know that things just tend to be more challenging. Many parents are scared of the idea of potty training but with a little planning, preparation and extra support you can conquer the potty, I promise.

Make a Plan
As with anything, before you do anything you need to make a plan if you want to successfully accomplish your goals. Your goal in this instance is teaching your child to use the potty when they need to go rather than going in their diaper. Kids with autism are many times rigid around routines, and going to the bathroom is no different. They’ve spent 3+ years going to the bathroom in their diaper and now you’re going jump in and change that routine which may be challenging, but it’s not impossible. So here’s the basic plan:

Goal: When the child needs to go to the bathroom (urinate or BM) they will tell/ask an adult and then independently complete the bathroom routine (go to the bathroom, flush toilet and wash hands).

Steps to attaining this goal:

  • Teach child to use the potty
  • Teaching your child to use the potty involves time and reinforcement. The most effective intervention I’ve implemented is to hang out in the bathroom all day with all the cool movies, toys, games, salty snacks and sugary drinks. On a timed basis (i.e. every 5 minutes) have your child sit on the toilet and try to go to the bathroom (maximum of 5 minutes). If they go, reinforce them with an extra special prize (i.e. candy, sticker). If they don’t go, reinforce them for trying by praising them. If they start to have an accident, try to move them to the potty quickly to get some in the toilet and then have them clean up any mess. Gradually increase the time between tries by 5 minutes every time they go successfully 3 times without accidents in between. Once they’ve reached the point where the timer is set for 30 minutes between tries, you can start to branch out and leave the bathroom.

  • Teach child associated behaviors (pants down, pants up, wipe, flush toilet, wash hands, etc.)
  • Once your child knows how to use the potty, it will be important to teach them all the skills associated with going to the bathroom. These skills will also take practice and reinforcement. Provide assistance as necessary, and reinforce the child for trying. The more you have them practice the more independent they will become.

  • Teach child to communicate that they need to go
  • It is vital to teach your child to communicate that they need to go. In the home, your child might get into the habit of just going to the bathroom without saying anything to you which is great BUT what will they do once they get to school? If your child does not know how to effectively communicate that they need to go when they need to go they are likely to have accidents. When you’re teaching your child at home, have them get into the habit of communicating to you “I’m going to the bathroom” or “I need to go the bathroom”. The more you practice and reinforce this behavior, the more likely it is they will be able to successfully use these skills when they are out in the community.

Get Prepared
So now that you have a plan for what you’re going to teach and how, you need to get prepared. It is important to identify what your BIG reinforcers are going to be, and this will be based on your child’s preferences. Put together of box of extra special items and make sure that your child does not have access to the items unless they are working on toilet training. This step will ensure these items will be extremely powerful reinforcers. Other things to do to get prepared are gathering all the snacks, drinks, toys, games and whatever else you will do while hanging out in the bathroom. You want to make sure the bathroom is a fun place where your child (and you) will be happy hanging out all day. Don’t forget the cleaning supplies! You want to have these readily available so you can quickly handle any accidents. Other things to have which are helpful include a child’s toilet seat which goes over the big seat, a foot stool so they can rest they’re feet comfortably, and a TV tray to put in front of the toilet so they have a surface to play on while they are trying to go.

Get Down to Business
On the day you start potty training, it is important to have a support team (spouse, relatives, friends, home therapists, etc.) who are all aware of the plan and can switch out throughout the day so one person is not responsible for potty training all day. This will be extremely helpful because this can be a daunting process and you want to be able to take a break, but still have your child working on potty training. The more you practice and the more consistent you are, the quicker you and your child will find success. It is extremely important to remember to keep potty training fun and exciting. If you’re stressed than you child is likely to be stressed and the likelihood of success is extremely low. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a break from potty training, get yourself reorganized and try again.

Happy Training!
Toilet Training in Less than a Day
Potty Training Charts