Potty-training requires patience.

Toilet Training for Individuals With Autism or Other Developmental Issues

by Brenda Scottsdale

Toilet training is often a long process that frustrates most parents. With special-needs children, most developmental tasks take longer and require more patience, and toilet training is no exception. Mastering this important developmental milestone will give your autistic or special-needs child the increased self-esteem and independence necessary to enter preschool or day care. Claire Keeler, RN, CPNP, CDE, indicates in an article published on the rifton website in 2011 that even if toilet training takes longer, most children, regardless of developmental disability, will achieve total bladder control.

1. Have Realistic Expectations

Children with autism spectrum disorders or other developmental issues often take longer to learn toilet training than other children. The pamphlet, "Toilet Training: A Parent's Guide," published on the Autism Speaks website, indicates that children with ASD require 1.6 years of toilet training during the day and can take more than two years to achieve bowel control. Issues complicating toilet training with special-needs children include their need for special toilets if there is a physical disability, their difficulty acquiring new habits, problems dressing and undressing, insensitivity to body needs and fear of sitting on toilets or hearing toilets flush.

2. Use Schedule Training

The schedule training or trip training method capitalizes on autistic children's needs to have routine and sameness and uses this to a parent's advantage when teaching toilet training. Set a schedule for toilet breaks and rigorously adhere to it. A realistic initial goal for special needs children is to "sit for six," which means to go to the bathroom six times a day, according to the pamphlet on the Autism Speaks website. Five of the visits should be short, at around six seconds per trip, with one longer visit to stimulate bowel movements. Work up to 10 minutes by using a timer. Once your child urinates or releases his bowels, allow him to get off the toilet. Teach boys to sit on the toilet to urinate until they have regular bowel movements.

3. Scheduling Aids

It's easier to adhere to the schedule if making trips to the toilet becomes a routine part of your special-needs toddler's life. Capitalize on an autistic toddler's need for routine by taking toilet trips at the same time every day. Use a visual schedule to help your special needs child anticipate times when you'll be taking him to the bathroom. Take pictures of the bathroom or items in the bathroom or use actual items to break down the tasks involved in going to the toilet.

4. Reward Successes

Experts, such as those at Autism Speaks, advise that it takes a least three weeks to develop a habit. Reinforce learning by rewarding small steps leading to larger successes. Use items that motivate your child, like food, toys or games, and give the reward after your child urinates or has a bowel movement. Give physical rewards, such as a small food item, in addition to doing a favorite activity together, such as watching a video.

About the Author

Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images