We all know potty training can be a nightmare. There are memes floating around much like this one that we have all seen our friends and family posting on social media.
We all hear about how much better all lives involved, will be once our little one's are potty trained. Potty training isn't easy. Potty training an autistic child is an extremely difficult job. You can do this! Your child can do this! I decided to share what is working for me and my son in hopes it may help someone else.
Now, let me state that I am currently still potty training my 5 year old autistic son. This will be our third attempt. I'm happy to say we are making so much more progress this time! For many reasons, he is more ready this time around, so am I and I did countless hours of research to figure out ways to make it easier on not only him but on myself. Parent's of children on the spectrum have all heard hundreds of times how no two kids with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) are alike. Trying an approach that works for someone else's kid may not work for yours. So, keep that in mind. Do your research, decide on what techniques you want to try. Try them and if one doesn't work don't be afraid to tweak your potty training program but most importantly once you commit to a regimen, do not quit. I know for my son he is all about his routine's and isn't a fan of me changing them up. So he argues with me when we do, but eventually he accepts that this is a part of his routine and we begin to make progress.
When your child begins to show signs they are wet with gestures or by removing wet or soiled diaper, this is a perfect time to begin potty training. My son is non-verbal so we use a pecs board or a board in the center room in the house with images he can hand me to request something. As we potty train, we hand over hand grab the picture and help him hand it to me and then go to the bathroom. (Until he learns to do it on his own.) So he has a clear understanding this is how to ask to use the bathroom. He has asked a few times to use the bathroom but we are in the beginning stages of potty training so I am prompted more than he is asking. This the universal picture that we use, as does his ASD preschool teacher, ABA therapists, etc.
·I recommend starting on a weekend you don't have any plans or appointments. I put him on the toilet first thing in the morning. I make sure to tell the teacher when I bring him to school, if he went and what time. It is so very important that everyone is being consistent with your child.
·We use pull-ups during the day (no pants when at home, so it is easier for him to remove his pulp and so I can tell if he has already gone) and diapers at night. I take him to the toilet every 30-45 mins. Setting an alarm on your phone helps with this. Have him pull down his pants (saying, "Pull down your pants <child's name here>") and he sits on the toilet for about 10 minutes. We have ABA therapists (from Easter Seals) come to the house five days a week and they are doing a slightly different potty training regimen. When they are here they put him in underwear (no pants) and they put him on the toilet every 15 minutes for 10 minutes. The also encourage him to drink more so that he has to the need to pee more often. More successful times using the toilet/potty makes the process easier. (I don't do this because it's not practical for us but I'm sure if we could he would be potty trained much faster.) My son gets rewarded for using the toilet, we use grape suckers because they are his favorite and the only thing that seems to feel like an actual reward to him. Also, I allow my son to play on his iPad while sitting on the toilet. It keeps him calm and in good spirits when sitting there for so long. I have tried many potty seats. The cars one is cute. It has the ring that goes on the toilet and it's a potty chair, however in my research I found teaching them to use a potty chair and then trying to teach them to use the toilet is difficult. Because he is 5 years old and 37lbs, sitting on the seat for long periods of time becomes uncomfortable as the cushion seat flattens and leaves a red imprint mark on his skin.
This one worked really well. No mark and he would sometimes sit for up to 20 minutes with no complaint but he is a boy and the shield just wasn't quite high enough.
The one that is the winner in our house is the thomas the engine one. The shield in the front is the tallest I've found. You can buy it from amazon, here.
Okay it's time for my major tip. This tip is primary for potty training boys. There is this company Tinkle Toonz, who makes the musical potty chair. The idea is you hear the music playing once your little one has used the bathroom. The sensor plays music once wet. The owner began selling the sensors from his toilet training chairs on their own once he found out that using the sensors on their own in underwear or pull-ups (cutting a slit in the pull ups and inserting the sensor. This works but the clean up is a bit messy for me.) was working wonders for parents trying to potty train autistic kids.
This trick I came up with, with the sensor is helping us with potty training on such a huge level I had to share. This is the sensor, the metal part should be facing out. Put super glue on the back in the center circle part (plastic side). Place it on the potty seat centered where the "shield" is. Hold it for several minutes until the glue drys. Let the glue set over night.
When your little guy begins to pee (even if an iPad is sitting on his lap and you can't hear or see) the music will begin to play when they do! Don't forget to praise your child! "Good job going pee in the potty!" or "You're peeing in the potty, good job!"
Here is a video of how the sensor works and what the music sounds like.
Another tip: When your child soils their diaper/pull up. Walk them to the bathroom and hand over hand dump the "poop" into the toilet out of the pull up/diaper/underwear and say, "This is where poop goes. Not in your diaper. Poop goes into the potty and then we flush it away."
Accidents will happen. If you opt for the underwear route, if they have an accident leave them in their soiled underwear and tell them "this is not where we go potty." Take them to the bathroom and tell them, "This is where we go potty." Repeat this three times and make them help clean it up. Hand over hand if needed. They will not like this at all and it gives them more incentive to use the toilet. When the ABA therapists are here I have noticed he has minimal messes at those times as he does not like having to clean it up.
Last thing, no one wants to carry around a giant potty ring when leaving the house. My son is afraid of the normal seat. I think it scares him that he might fall in and he isn't sure how to sit on it. I found this fold up potty seat that has worked great for us so we don't have to remain house bound. He will actually go when we are out because he feels secure on the seat. With certain toilets I do have to to hold onto it, so be aware of that. I have this one.
Remember, don’t get mad. Don’t yell but be stern. If they wont sit there for 5-10 minutes it might not be time yet. Give it a month and try again or even 6 months. No one knows your child better than you do. The first time we tried to potty train was a year ago. He was showing the signs of being ready, wanting his dirty or wet diaper off. But he had no patience or ability to sit on the toilet for any length of time. It was a huge fight and he was often hysterical. So just breathe. Don’t get discouraged. I hope that any or all of this helps you moms and dads out there with potty training! Good luck and Godspeed. ;)