Advice for Toilet Training a Six Year Old with Autism


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What does it take to toilet train a child on the autism spectrum? Often, it's a long and difficult process. Kids with autism may not care about their same-age peers, or have a special interest in wearing "big boy" underwear. They may have sensory problems that make it tougher to feel the need to go. There may be anxieties around the toilet seat, the sound of the flush, and so forth.

One mom is particularly frustrated, and writes:

He always has a small portfion in his pants - regardless of how often he is changed. I agree with the idea that he no longer smells the odor - as that is all he knows. Other kids are picking up on the smell. We have tried incentives - as well as restriction. When placed on the potty - trantrums come out. It is preventing his involvement in many situations. We are all so frustrated! If ANYONE has any ideas - suggestions - please let me know!"

A while back, I wrote a full-length article offering step-by-step advice on how to toilet train your child with autism which takes most of those issues into account. To quote that article (and Dr. Beth Kroeger, an expert in the field) on the subject of bowel movements and autism:

"Many children will have relatively little problem with urination, but seem reluctant to poop in the toilet. Many reasons can explain this, says Dr. Kroeger." "If there is a problem, we look at why. It may be constipation, or it may be that the child doesn't like the splash that occurs when a bowel movement hits the water. If that's the problem, we work slowly to desensitize." Dr. Kroeger also offers tips for managing toilet teaching when your child wants to poop only in a diaper. The key to success, she explains, is taking the process step by step."

  • First, figure out when your child is going to poop, and have him poop in the diaper - in the bathroom.
  • Slowly, fade to having him poop into the diaper - on the toilet.
  • Next, have him pull his pants down before sitting on the toilet. Last of all, have him sit on the toilet with diaper off.

These steps may take a long time, and you may need to break them down further and further. The key to success, however, is making it possible for your child to succeed and earn that motivating prize.

What is Dr. Kroeger missing? Are there other techniques that have worked well for you and your child? Please share!

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