Every child is different. And autism potty training is different. The method that successfully potty trains one child may not work with another. Same idea with therapies right? As parents we need a deeper bag of tricks, especially when it comes to autism potty training… or should I say poop training! You’re probably more concerned with getting your child to poop in the toilet. Changing poopey diapers gets really monotonous after a certain age. It was never fun in the first place. With that in mind here are some methods of autism potty training for your child. Hopefully you’ll find one that works. My wife and I tried several methods before finding the one that worked for our son. So don’t give up!
Some autistic children are never successfully toilet trained. And it’s rarely an easy task. Some children have to wait until the time is right, until they’re mentally ready. When will your child be ready? Who knows. Like I said, every child is different.
Usually getting children to pee in the toilet is easier than getting them to poop in the toilet. (You’ll read the word poop a lot on this page so be ready for it!)
Braden with his chair on the toilet
• Favorite Treat Method
Some children just need a little motivation. Knowing they’ll get a piece of their favorite candy after pooping in the toilet may be that extra motivation they need. There are entire books written on potty training (and you may have read them all) and this is one of the methods included in many of those books. For this exercise let’s assume the child REALLY likes Hershey’s Kisses. Buy some. Buy a lot. Put them in a see-through glass or plastic jar and put them up high enough so the child can’t reach. The idea here is based on “out of sight, out of mind” and you want your child to have Hershey’s Kisses on his mind so he remembers to poop in the toilet. You want him to WANT to poop in the toilet.
After your child successfully does his duty give him one Hershey’s Kiss as a reward. Continue to do this after each successful poop. That’s the whole trick here. Keep giving your child a Kiss until he’s so used to going in the toilet that it becomes a routine regardless of the reward. Before long the Kiss won’t be the motivation. The routine will be the motivation.
• No Pants Method
Call it Hell Weekend. But it works for some children. The idea here is to choose a weekend and stay home. Put on your war paint and get ready for battle. Dress your child only from the waist up. No diapers, no underwear, no pants, nothing. Feed him well. Sooner or later he’s going to feel the urge to poop. But many children with autism are accustommed to having the comfort of a diaper on their behind. It’s like a security blanket. When it’s not there what does he do? (Or should I say “do-do?”) With a bit of luck, and some urging from you, he’ll try the toilet. With a little more luck he’ll like it and start using it regularly. I know this worked for an autistic child close to our family. But my son had no problem just pooping right on the floor in our closet.
5 gold stars in a line
• Hourglass Method
Children with autism are often impatient. They don’t want to sit down in one spot, especially on a toilet, for 5 minutes. That’s a long time to a child! If only there was a way to get your child to sit happily on the throne with a full belly. That’s where the old fashioned 5-minute hourglass comes in. Children with ASD are likely to “stim” (stimulate) or perseverate while closely watching the sands of the hourglass slowly slide through the bottleneck. Typical children may be encouraged to read books while sitting on the toilet, but that often isn’t enough for kids with autism. While sitting there for a bit your child may accidentally poop. And that’s when you party! Make a big deal about it so your child remembers this celebration and does it again and again and again. Before you know it your child is into the habit of going big boy style (or big girl style).
• Constant Reminder Method
This one is simple to explain. Every 30 minutes put your child on the toilet. When you’re not near your house, or not near a real toilet, carry one of those portable toilets that’s made for children and use that. You can do it! Sooner or later you’ll get him to go in the toilet and then you let him know how fabulous that is! Keep it up until he’s got the routine down and regularly uses the toilet.
There are a lot of great children’s books out there focused on helping with toileting too. One of my favorites is “Everyone Poops” by Taro Gomi. It’s a hillarious book!
• Video Footage Method
Got a video camera? Put it to use where it can really make a difference! A behavioral therapist recommended this one. This method assumes that your child currently poops in a diaper.
Have your child help you with the post-poop procedure. If possible, even have him help you wipe. When you take off the diaper have him follow you into the bathroom and watch as you deposit his poop into the toilet. Flush it down. Let him know that’s where it goes. Record this procedure on video and show it to your child as often as you can. And whenever you have to change a poopey diaper go through these motions. You’re trying to help him understand that poop doesn’t go in a diaper. It goes in the toilet. Maybe he’ll cut out the middle step and start going straight to the toilet. Who knows?
• No Diapers Method
This is the one that worked for my son. Hallelujah! My wife and I decided that we were done changing diapers and we were not going to enable our boy any longer. So we stopped putting diapers on him. We just stopped cold turkey. That left our son with two choices. One; he could poop in his underwear. Or two; He could get on the toilet and handle his business.
Our son was finally toilet trained at age 6. Prior to being “broken” he would always wear underwear, but when he was ready to poop he would ask for a diaper to be put on by saying “want diaper”. One day we just said “No. No more diapers.” And Braden threw a fit like you don’t know. Well, actually, if you’re the parent of a child with autism you probably DO know. Let’s just say our son was like a 4-foot version of hurricane Andrew. And we had to endure more than one fit. It wasn’t easy and it took more than one day. But we did it anyhow. And it worked!