Toileting Training Using Social Stories for Young Learners with Autism

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I have to let you in on a little secret.  One of the things I’m known for in my school is writing toileting social stories.  If anyone needs a story that is potty training related, they come to me. Haha!  I never set out to be the potty training guru, it just kind of happened over time.  Some colleagues need a story for a student about wearing underwear, some need a story about sitting on the potty, and some need a story about peeing or pooping in the potty.  I usually have them covered!  You may ask, “why are toileting stories so popular”?  For one, they work!  In addition to that, at the early childhood level, toilet training is a very important skill that parents want to work on.  Parents want to know how to teach toilet training for their child with autism or other developmental disabilities in a simplified step-by-step way that takes into account their child’s strengths and challenges. 


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Why do social stories work?

Social stories were developed by Carol Gray in 1990.  Through her work as an educator, she came up with the concept of social stories and began teaching others how to utilize them.  The use of social stories is now an evidence-based practice for children with autism.  Carol has trained educators and parents around the world in the use of social stories.  Social stories work because they provide children with information about a situation, learn the sequence of an activity, prepare them for a change or new routine, and assist in gaining insight into the perspectives of others.  This is done in a visual format (written word or written word + pictures).  Visual learners benefit from pictures being added to the story.  The story gives them information about what is going to happen and what they should do.  Another very important piece is to include information about their perspective.  This could be a sentence individualized to them, such as “sitting on the toilet makes me feel a little scared”.  Recognizing and validating their feelings can be key!


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How to use special interests in social stories to increase interest

Using special interests when writing social stories for toileting is SO helpful.  You will immediately increase motivation and interest.  Using special interests, along with validating the child’s feelings by including their perspective really individualizes the story and gives children ownership and “buy-in” into the story.  Examples of using special interests include using favorite characters in the story.  I’ve written stories with Paw Patrol characters, Disney princesses, country singers, etc… I’ve even written a toileting social story showing Santa peeing in the potty! Take some time to think about your student or child’s favorite characters and use them in the story when you can.

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What does a toileting social story look like?

A social story for toilet training is not one size fits all.  I’ve written a few stories about peeing in the potty, pooping in the potty, wearing underwear, etc…  These can be a great place to start for teaching the sequence of toileting, but it is also important to expand on these to individualize the story for each child and their unique perspectives and challenges.  When you think about all of the steps for toileting, autistic children face challenges with different aspects based on their sensory systems, rigidity, language comprehension, and cognition.  That is why each child may need a different type of story.  For example, one child may have difficulty sitting on the toilet, another may have an aversion to the flushing sound due to sensory issues, and another child might be able to pee in the toilet, but is not yet pooping in the toilet.  Some children may need support in wearing underwear, and others need guidance to follow the entire sequence.  Different social stories can be written to address these specific skills.

Be sure to check out Carol Gray’s resources and upcoming trainings if you are interested in learning more about how to write a social story!

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.


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  1. Do you have info on a 4 year old with autism regressing in potty skills? We had it down for like a month and he back slid.

  2. Hi there, I am working with a 5 years old angel at school and she is not toilet trained yet. Please can I have some suggestions to help her. She sits in a toilet but doesn’t do anything. We tried other strategies, but they didn’t work.