It can be very difficult, parenting kids with autism. There are so many issues that come up that wouldn’t normally come up if you had a typically developing kid. One of the troublesome ones can be toilet training. It can take some kids with autism years longer than their peers to learn how to use the toilet.
Fortunately, there are strategies that can help autistic kids.
It is common for parents of autistic kids to become frustrated when trying to get their loved ones to use the toilet. He just sits there and won’t do anything. Diapers can get bulky and annoying to change, and of course your child needs to be toilet trained, in most cases, in order to be able to go to school.
Toilet training is one of the more difficult issues in parenting kids with autism, but luckily, there are a lot of parents who have gone before you. Here are some tips.
- Take one step at a time. First and foremost, when you are teaching your child to use the toilet, you should break everything into small steps. This works best if your autistic child already has an understanding of what you use a toilet for. Some autistic kids have a lot of fear around a toilet. This could be because it’s so loud, or different, or even because they think they might fall in, but whatever it is, they need to know what the parts of the toilet are and you may need to show them the different parts of the toilet in a low pressure environment.
- Use physical rewards as encouragement. You will want to find some rewards that might be of interest your child. These can be anything from cookies or some food treat to action figures or baseball cards. Choose anything that is small and that you can keep in the bathroom so that you can access it easily. Of course we use these “reinforcers” to acknowledge a job well done and to say to your child that they have succeeded in the task at hand.
- Have patience. When you and your autistic child enter the bathroom, assume that you will stay for some time. Provide acknowledgement and praise if your child is willing to stay in the bathroom and does not want to leave. Provide a reward for staying close to the toilet. A good thing to do is to reward your child if he or she sits and stays on the toilet, even if they are doing nothing but sitting there! Remember that this can be a slow and gradual process and you will eventually get there.
- Reward any step accomplished successfully. If there is an “accident” go to the toilet, remove your child’s pants and show him or her were the waste goes. This will help your child realize where the waste is supposed to end up. Remember, eventually your loved one will get the idea. Then let them flush the toilet and use toilet paper to clean. Each step that they accomplish gets them closer to the finish line. And each step, even if accomplished out-of-order, should be praised.
The goal is to gradually, step-by-step, build to your desired outcome. In other words, having your child use the toilet- and do the steps that lead up to it enough times that it will eventually sink into his head what he’s supposed to do.
You will of course want to be sure to reinforce your child if he uses the toilet in an appropriate way, and he will, eventually. Patience is the key to all problems involving parenting kids with autism.