Communication is one of the biggest barriers encountered by parents with autistic children. This barrier can take a toll on the parent-child bond and overall quality of life, especially when dealing with activities of everyday life such as potty training.
Potty training is a developmental milestone for any child. It is every child’s first step towards independence and often a basic requirement for a child’s enrollment in preschool.
While many children show a willingness to be potty trained through their actions, children with developmental disabilities often find it challenging. No matter how difficult it gets, the silver lining is that it is a possible endeavor with the right steps.
Keep on reading to find out more about potty training children with autism.
1. Create a Routine
One thing that every parent of an autistic child understands is that their children appreciate routine. A lack of routine and consistent scheduling in the life of any autistic child can lead to frustration and unpredictable behavior.
Similarly, autism and potty training can also be aligned through a consistent routine. Consistency can add comfort to the life of an autistic child, making it easy for them to absorb new information, including potty training. Pair consistency with praising words and rewards for effective results.
Remember that demonstrating your behaviors rather than ordering can yield more effective results. Try to mimic the behavior with your child or use visual prompts. Once you create an everyday routine, you can let your child participate in this endeavor through intervals and sections.
2. Treat Accidents Positively
Accidents are bound to happen, no matter if you are training an autistic child or Williams Syndrome. These mishaps are a part of the journey. The way you treat these accidents can determine the direction your training can take.
Parents are always recommended to keep cool and composed when dealing with accidents during potty training, especially with autistic children. Instead of losing your temper, let your children know what the better alternative may have been.
Remain calm and have your child with autism go through the toilet routine a few times after the accident. Make sure to reinforce them positively every time they follow through with your teaching. It can make them feel comfortable and safe.
If the accidents continue, it is recommended that you engage them in cleaning the mess they create with a soft tone. Of course, you must follow up for a thorough cleaning. However, make sure that your child does not see you following up.
3. Familiarize with Underwear
It can be harder for parents to let go of diapers as compared to autistic children. It is because parents usually have to deal with the mess. However, you can find a bit of hope knowing that underwear can be a step towards potty training your child.
Yes, it will be harder to clean underwear and your child after an accident. However, the silver lining is that proper clothing can be uncomfortable to deal with for the child as well. After a few mishaps, the child may associate discomfort with a bad action. It can become a reinforcer for your child to be trained.
You can help your child settle with the change by letting them become a part of it. The best way is to let them choose their own underwear in their favorite colors or patterns. Do not forget to add some extra pairs to waste them if needed.
4. Focus on Positive Reinforcement
Holding back punishments and harsh words is always one of the most important steps to follow. Instead of looking for reasons to criticize your child, look for ways to praise them. Positive Reinforcement always yields better results than the contrary.
Small rewards on every step of potty training can have a significant impact on the time and energy needed to train your child. Provide them with small rewards at every step and reveal a bigger reward when they complete the task properly.
The rewards can be a motivation for any child to put their best efforts into completing the task successfully. From sitting on the toilet seat to wiping, flushing, and washing hands, make sure to reward every action to acknowledge their effort and cooperation.
5. Encourage Communication
Communicating with an autistic child can be one of the biggest challenges. It is also an important factor leading to effective behavioral training. Although parents are encouraged to create a potty routine for their children, it is equally important to encourage them to let you know when they have to relieve themselves.
Look for behavioral patterns based on their successful visits to the bathrooms or unfortunate mishaps. You can create a routine based on those behavioral patterns. You will find the right patterns through trial and error in creating a routine.
These behavioral patterns can tell you enough about the patterns that lead your child to need to go to the bathroom. Make sure to notice positive actions, starting from communication, and reward them for conditioning your child for a routine.
6. Do not Give Up
It can be hard to get frustrated working on potty training a child with autism. Some children show signs of readiness to potty train between 18 and 24 months, but many children are not ready until the age of 3. Many parents especially worry if their child does not show any signs of willingness to potty train.
Studies suggest that it can take up to 3 weeks to establish a routine of potty training. These three weeks can require a lot of hard work. You must prepare yourself with dedication and patience for at least 3 weeks. Kindness to yourself and compassion towards your child can help you get effective results sooner.
There is no doubt that potty training an autistic child can be a long and arduous journey. If all else fails, you can consider working with a professional in case there is no improvement. They offer clinical or at-home services to get an outside perspective on the situation.