When beginning to think about toilet training for your child, it can seem daunting, and often one can be left with more questions than answers. Not all children respond to the same teaching techniques, and a method that is helpful in one child’s situation may not be successful for another. This process can be made more challenging if your child has difficulty communicating and transitioning between familiar and new routines. Our guide is consistent with the existing literature for toilet training children with autism. Therefore, these barriers are taken into consideration so that you and your family can create a teaching plan that fits your child’s individual needs.
Before beginning the toilet-training process, it is recommended that as caregivers you make sure that your child has the necessary skills to complete each step of the toileting process. Some important readiness factors to consider are:
· Do they have a communication system? Whether it be pictures, signs, gestures, or words, it will help greatly if your child has a way to ask for what they want and need
· Do they have body awareness? In other words, do they know when they are wet or feel the urge to go to the washroom.
· Are they physically ready? Can they walk to the toilet, help with undressing, and remain seated on the toilet?
· Are they able to stay dry for up to 2 hours?
If your child and the rest of your family are ready to dive in and begin the toilet training process, there are several steps that you can take to set your child up on a path to success!
1. Take Data: Before trying any other strategies, it is helpful to gather information about when and how frequently your child is urinating and having bowel movements. This can be made easier by keeping a ‘toilet tracker’ on your phone, computer, or separate sheet where you can record the date and time of bathroom trips or accidents.
2. Rewards (Reinforcers): toilet training for your child should ultimately be exciting! Make sure to reserve a special reward or treat and give it each time after a successful trip to the bathroom. This should be paired with lots of praise and cheering!
3. Underwear: to help your child recognize when they are wet, it is recommended that they switch from diapers or pull-ups to cotton underwear. To make this more fun for your child, you can buy some fun new underwear together so they can begin to get excited about wearing them! At times, this may be challenging for your child since they will experience more discomfort following an accident compared to wearing a diaper or pull-up. If you find this step too challenging for your child, it is okay to skip it and increase diaper dry-checks as an alternative.
4. Scheduled Sits: use the information you collected prior to toilet training to create a sit schedule. Since you have a good idea of how often your child should need to be (e.g., every 1 hour), you can begin bringing them to the toilet once every hour to sit for 2-3 minutes (or until they successfully eliminate). If they are wet in between trips, remain calm and neutral and help them change into dry clothes quickly without providing too much attention.
5. Remove Yourself from the Process: Once your child is consistently staying dry and making trips to the bathroom, you can begin reducing the level of prompting and reinforcement so they can move forward independently.
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