Potty training children with autism- should you use visual supports? Absolutely! Keep reading for some tips for using visuals and other strategies to help with the potty training process.
How To Start Potty Training An Autistic Child
Sometimes potty training can take a little longer for autistic children. There are a variety of reasons for this. Studies have shown that many autistic children have impairments in interoception. Interoception is the ability to sense the internal state of the body. If the ability to sense the internal state of the body is impaired, it can affect self-regulation, managing emotions, sleeping, toileting, experiencing pain, and identifying symptoms when sick. The good news is that the studies show that this gets better as children get older.
If a child has difficulty sensing an internal state, such as the feeling of needing to go to the bathroom, potty training will be affected. But, that doesn’t mean you need to give up! There are still steps you can take to support your student or child in the potty training journey.
Create A Predictable Toileting Routine
If your child is not sitting on the toilet yet, start there. A visual sequence can help with this. You are going to want to make this part of a routine. For example, take your child to the bathroom after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That way, it becomes predictable. Sitting on the toilet can be very short to start with. An example would be “1-2-3…all done!” We don’t want children to be stressed. If they don’t want to sit, you can read books in the bathroom to get them more comfortable in that setting. Keep it relaxed and low pressure. Use a visual sequence to show them the steps and expand the time sitting on the toilet as they are ready. You can download this free toileting sequence to help you out. If you would like a more comprehensive set of visual supports, click here.
There are several other skills related to potty training children with autism that you can focus on. You can work on undressing, dressing, wearing underwear, or sitting on the toilet. This can all be done even if your student or child doesn’t seem to have any signs of “readiness” yet. Working on these skills can also set your child up for independence in the future. There are so many skills that go into “potty training”, besides just peeing or pooping in the toilet.
It is important to understand that it is harder to change an established routine than it is to start a new routine. That is why it can be difficult for autistic children to make the switch from diapers to underwear. They are used to the feeling of the diaper (sensory-wise), and underwear probably doesn’t feel right. As an in-between step, you can try putting underwear on under or over the diaper. Start this early if you can because it will be easier to make the switch to underwear later.
Take Some Data
Use this toileting tracking sheet to take some data so you can predict the best times to sit on the toilet. Once you identify times that your student or child typically has a wet diaper, you can have them sit on the toilet closer to that time. You can also encourage drinking more fluids before those times if possible. Many times, after the child urinates in the toilet for the first time, they start to make the connection. So, let’s do what we can to increase those odds! Read books and sing songs while sitting on the toilet so it is a fun and comfortable experience.
These small steps can lead to big progress over time. So, if your child isn’t urinating in the toilet yet, don’t worry! You can be working on sitting on the toilet, putting underwear over the diaper, dressing, and undressing. These are the beginning steps to success.
Download the free Toilet Training Guide to take the first steps on the potty journey! Also, be sure to listen to the 3 part potty training series on the Autism Little Learners Podcast.
If you want to read more about potty training and autism, click the links for the blog posts below:
Watch the replay of this Facebook Live mini-training about potty training, click the link below: