5 Frequently asked questions about toilet training children with autism

Let us share some thoughts and ideas on how to start your child wearing pants rather than nappies.

Many children who have autism find it hard to break long established routines, like using a nappy rather than a potty or toilet. Using a toilet is a huge skill to learn. It doesn’t happen quickly. So, if you, or your child is not ready to start, don’t feel pressured to. Wait until everyone involved is ready.

Children with limited communication will find it hard to tell you when they need to go to the bathroom, and may not understand you ask if they would like to go. There are many hurdles that can slow the progress of toilet training your child, but here are a few tips to help you along the way:

1. How do I know when my child is ready for toilet training?

Your child is likely to be ready to start if:

  • If you can notice changes in their behaviour immediately before they need to go
  • They are showing signs of needing to go to the toilet
  • If they show signs of discomfort when their nappy needs changing
  • If they have shown an interest in using the toilet

So what's the first step? Read on and find out...

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2. What is the first step in toilet training my child with autism?

  • Make sure you have time! Ideally, once you start, you want to be able to continue
  • Select one item that the child can have when they have successfully used the toilet AND AT NO OTHER TIME
  • Encourage your child do drink plenty of fluids throughout the day
  • Start by teaching your child to sit on the toilet for up to two minutes. For this time, offer small toys for them to play with while they sit there. We want it to be a positive experience
  • Be ready to give the special item if they have a wee or poo on the toilet. But make sure it is well hidden the rest of the time

3. When do I dress my child in pants rather than nappies?

  • Whenever you are ready!
  • As soon as they are wearing pants (if not before), take your child to the toilet on a schedule
  • Start going frequently. Perhaps every 15 minutes. When there have been no accidents for 2 to 3 days, go to the toilet every 20 minutes
  • Make sure that the special item is given EVERY time they wee or poo on the toilet and at NO other time

4. What if my child has a toileting accident?

  • Don't worry
  • Be prepared with plenty of spare clothes
  • When you change them into clean clothes, make it less fun than when you usually visit the bathroom, so there is a clear difference between success of using the toilet and the accidents.
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5. How do I know when my child needs to go to the toilet if they don't speak?

  • Keep an eye out for "warning signs
  • You might find that your child always sits down or stand up before they need to go. They might become still and quiet
  • As soon as you identify these “warning signs” keep a close eye out for them and take them to the bathroom as quickly as you can.

I hope these ideas are useful. Let us know how you get on, and of course, if you have any other questions, we’d be very happy to answer them. http://earlyactionforautism.co.uk/contact/