How to potty train a nonverbal child with autism: 7 tips to know

March 7, 2022

Some parents have found potty training a nonverbal child with autism to be a tricky experience. Here are 7 tips that parents may find helpful.

1 - Wait for the child to be ready

There is no golden age or ideal moment to start toilet training your child. Children may show they are prepared between the ages of two and four, but this isn't always the case.

When your child shows some of the following behaviors, you know they're ready to be toilet trained:

  • They dislike the sensation of a wet or soiled diaper and will demonstrate their unhappiness by removing it or vocalizing their need to be changed.
  • They are interested in the toilet when they sit on it, flush it, or watch an adult use it.
  • They go to the restroom with an adult to acquire a clean diaper or pull-up.
  • They can pull their pants  up and down.
  • They begin to hide to defecate.

These signals suggest that the child is comfortable going potty on his or her own, and they are aware that getting dirty or soiled is socially inappropriate and unhyengic.

2 - Remove your child's diapers and place him or her in underpants

When it comes to toilet training, children should shift from diapers to underpants. This is especially crucial for children with autism since the transition from diapers to underwear may provide distinct feelings for the child and this may take some time for them to get comfortable in underwear.

In the beginning, the child may urinate in his or her underpants, which is normal. Allow time for the child to feel comfortable wearing underpants before toilet training. Then, after the child feels at at ease in his or her underwear, start toilet training.

Allow your child to choose underwear that is exciting to them, such as a cartoon or other character-themed style. It's also helpful to start with daytime training and then go on to nighttime training once the child has demonstrated greater bathroom independence.

3 - Make time for you and your child to stay at home together

Toilet training can take a week if both the parent and the child are at home every day to work on it, but it can take more or less time. Staying home is vital so you can keep an eye on your child. If he or she wants to go potty or shows signs of wetness, you can take them to the toilet, so they know where they should go.

Some children take less time, while others require more. Just remember that both are acceptable. Make sure to use a method that permits the child's new routine to remain consistent.

If you can't stay at home with your child, potty training could take longer than expected. You may want to consider getting the help of a professional or another family member who can stay at home with your child.

4 - Make potty training enjoyable and rewarding

As with underpants, let the child choose a fun toilet seat featuring cartoons or other figures. Make going to the bathroom a celebration; sing, dance, put balloons in the bathroom, and enjoy your time there with your child. Make potty training enjoyable for the child by rewarding them with a preferred item or treat once they have done so.

If your child is fearful of the toilet, assist them in overcoming their fears. This may be accomplished by taking them to the toilet and allowing them to sit on or play around the toilet. The toilet may have the top open or closed and the child can keep their clothing on to get them used to being near the toilet.

5 - Take it one step at a time when it comes to potty training

A child usually learns to urinate first and then gets used to pooping on a toilet. If they continue to have accidents, try showing them the locations of the accidents and then accompany them to the toilet to reinforce the connection between defecating, urinating, and toilet use. Have them communicate the need to go potty, via words, sign or picture exchange, at the scene of the accident, and afterward, take them to the potty and perform the potty process. Even if the child has already left, you should bring them back and walk them through the process, in a kind and gentle manner.

It may be good to perform this technique more than once in some circumstances. The goal is to show the child that being brought to the potty twice is more work than going to the toilet once.

6 - Avoid triggers

Avoid triggers that your child may have such as the toilet flushing sound or washing their hands after going potty.

If your child appears to be upset with these actions, instead of flushing immediately, you can wait until your child has left the room before flushing the toilet. You can also use hand wipes instead of washing their hands in the sink. Handwashing and flushing are two actions that can be taught later.

7 - Use substitutes for certain vocal instructions if the child is not communicative during toilet training

You can use communication systems such as picture-exchange cards, bells, or other tools. Children can use them to express non-verbally that they need to go to the toilet. Choose the tools depending on your child's age and developmental level.

Conclusion

Potty training children with autism can be tricky. However, by preparing ahead and having the necessary resources on hand, you can increase your chances of success. Structure, consistency, and patience are other important factors in successful toilet training. It might be a difficult experience for many parents; however, an experienced professional and new perspective might help. If toilet training issues persist despite your best efforts, seek professional help from our best-in-class ABA therapists from Songbird

Songbird therapy is a technology-enabled autism care provider that is raising the bar for children with autism. We are creating a future where every kid can receive world-class care at home, tailored to their specific needs, thanks to a dedicated team and cutting-edge technology.

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