Toilet Training Your Autistic Child

Young girl sitting on the toilet, leaning forward, trying to get up

•     Are you feeling pressure that your child is not toilet trained?
•   Have you felt embarrassed or guilty that your child is still in diapers?
•    Are you criticized or blamed that your child should have been trained by now?
•    Are you concerned that it is your fault and/or that you are a bad parent?

This is not the case! But, these are common experiences for parents of children on the autism spectrum. Parents often feel pressure to have their child toilet trained when they are past the age of 2 or 3. This may come from extended family, friends, the public, or from the parents themselves. Often parents want to have their child trained so he can get into a school program or day care.

Many autistic children are not ready to be toilet trained until they are 4, 5, 6, 7-years-old, and sometimes even older. There are  young autistic children who understand the concept of toileting before they are actually able to go in the toilet. They may not be able to feel it, communicate that they need to go, or figure out what they need to do to be successful. These problems with sensory processing can make toilet training a more complex challenge.

The most important thing to remember when toilet training, is that:

It’s Your Child’s Body

You cannot make something come out of your child’s body. So, avoid pressuring your child, being negative or expressing frustration with her. If you have negative emotions and frustrations about your child still being in diapers, your child will most likely feel your emotions, and then toileting becomes an emotional problem instead of simply teaching a skill. And if that occurs, training becomes so much more difficult and complex!

The Method Used for Toilet Training Will Depend on Your Child

There is not one way of toilet training that works for all autistic children. Figuring out your child’s strengths and weaknesses, sensory issues, motivations, rewards, etc., is the first step in starting an appropriate, positive, toileting program. Then, watch what is working and not working, and make adjustments in the training.

Check out our list of Toilet Training Tips for Your Autistic Child, Do’s and Don’ts for an extensive list of suggestions to individualize training for your child.

A word of warning: Don’t overly frustrate your child by too much training; such as taking them too often, or having them sit too long. If you sense your child getting more resistant, decrease how often you take him, how long you have him sit on the toilet, or take a break from the training altogether.  

The results of pushing your child too much or being too negative could be that she may start refusing to go to the toilet, or hold in the urine or feces until she is back in a diaper. It can make toilet training much more difficult. So don’t hurry. Take your time. Most likely, when you child is ready, she will learn.

If you are interested in an individualized plan, or to discuss specific problem areas, feel free to contact us.