Potty training for any child can be… stressful at times. And for children with autism you might be met with different challenges in the process, but that’s why we’re here to help!
We’ve put together a handy guide to let you know the ranges and behaviors that are typical of children with autism while they’re being potty trained. This should help you assess how your child is doing, and whether you may need further assistance in getting them on the right track.
What Age is Typical For Children to be Potty Trained?
There is no typical age to potty train a child.. Each child is unique, and there are many factors that play into their ability to learn and be fully trained for the task. These factors include physical, mental, environmental, and developmental milestones.
It’s generally expected that a child begins potty training between 18-36 months old – which is in itself a wide range. There is no real rush for you or your child so long as you are monitoring their abilities and assessing when the time is right for your child. If you are beginning to suspect that your child with autism may be having issues with the learning process of potty training, it is perfectly acceptable to take it slow.
What is most important is that you are patient, tracking progress, and making sure that the goals you are setting are realistic for both you and your child.
When Can I Potty Train My Child with Autism?
The timing to start potty training your child with autism can be similar to that of neurotypical children. There is no set age to potty train, though there may be different levels of patience needed in the beginning and duration of the process for potty training a child with autism.
One thing to be attentive to is potential behavioral or developmental impediments that might push back or augment the way you approach potty training children with autism. Potty training requires communication, pattern recognition, and reinforcement for outcomes. There may be behavioral interactions that have to be worked out before potty training is a realistic option for your child. Similarly, some children with autism are ready pretty early on.
Here are some things to consider when approaching potty training for a child with autism:
- Children with autism often have developmental delays or learn skills slowly. This is perfectly fine, as there is no set age to achieve potty training.
- A child with autism thrives on routine. Using a diaper is something they are likely used to, and using the toilet is both a change in that routine and a new one for them to develop.
- There might be anxiety or stress for both you and your child around toileting. This is perfectly okay, just be patient in the process.
- Some children with autism are limited verbally – this doesn’t have to inhibit you from starting potty training, but it can make the process a bit more challenging.
Each child with autism might face unique challenges in potty training, but will have better success with support, structure, and patience.
Potty Training Techniques for Children with Autism
The techniques for potty training a child with autism will be dependent on their ability to communicate along with other behavioral traits. We always recommend working to strengths instead of forcing a pre-planned method of training which may cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for both you and your child.
Here are some of our most successful toilet training strategies for children with autism:
1. Use Simple Communication: Potty training and the shift in routine can be a mentally and physically complex process for any child. Using visual prompts and consistent timing can help simplify the mechanics at the beginning until using the bathroom is a known behavior for your child.
2. Reward Positive Behaviors: Positive reinforcement is one of the strongest ways to help a child with autism learn in general. Rewarding a successful toilet trip is a great idea for encouraging your child’s development – whether it’s praise, toys, or treats. Make sure to reinforce immediately after so that the connection between their accomplishment and the reward is clear as possible to your child.
3. Don’t Stress Over Accidents: While positive reinforcement is integral for potty training success, overly fussing about incidents can create a negative hindrance that will prevent your child from trying again. A brief reminder about the intended action should be sufficient as a learning mechanism.
4. Move Out of Diapers ASAP: As we have alluded to, routine is extremely important to children with autism. Making wearing underwear and going to the bathroom the norm as opposed to using a diaper will reinforce this routine.
We always encourage getting professional help via your ABA therapist or autism center. They will be able to help you create positive systems, work through potential behavioral impediments, and add to your potty training routine.
Get Potty Training Help for Your Child with Autism
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, we know that potty training can be stressful – but it doesn’t have to be. We work hand-in-hand with parents and caregivers to provide the best opportunity for children to learn potty training at their own pace. If you are interested in learning more about how our licensed therapists and clinicians can help create a potty training routine, please reach out to us today. We’d love to help!