Toilet Training a Child With Autism

I’m sorry, but the title just seems funny to me. The reason I used it is that I’ve seen many other articles on this subject and really, most aren’t all bad but some just make me cringe. Here’s why…

I’ve written many times already in the short life of this blog, that no two Autistic people are the same… that you have to handle every single person with Autism differently because their symptoms and issues are usually very different. Then you come across these articles which tell you what you “need to do” to toilet train your child.

With that out of the way, I will share with you what worked for my wife and I, it was really quite funny.

My son had just turned 3 was starting to get his words together, to actually be able to communicate, thus, able to understand a little better, I think. We felt that this was a perfect time to put in an honest effort, not just due to his level of understanding but because he was larger than a 6 year old and we were running out of diapers sizes in his size.

Cameron was obsessed with the Cars movie, with Lightning McQueen and Mator… he could watch that movie 3 times a day, more if we let him. So, while visiting my mom in the US (I am Canadian), we visited several stores and found that there are a LOT more toys available in the US than there is here.

So we bought every one we could find and filled up 3 bags worth, as well as a couple of bigger toys including Mac the truck and a parking garage.

We showed my son all these toys which, I’m sure you can imagine, excited him a lot! So we placed the bags on the back of the bathroom door and placed the bigger toys on the floor in front of the toilet.

We sat him down, on the toilet and while he was trying to catch a glimpse of every single car in each of the bags, we explained to him “Cameron, every time you go pee into the toilet, you get a car from the bags… every time you do a poop in the toilet, you get a big toy like Mac.”

Apparently his level of understanding was much higher than I had thought at the time, for wouldn’t you believe, he would rush off to the toilet every 3 minutes! I kid you not, he must have been in and out of that bathroom 45 times that day. He went to bed defeated but didn’t make a fuss about it, but it certainly was in his mind because when he woke up, he was eager to run to the toilet again. A couple dozen times more that day and then it happened… a trickle! It took a while, but finally a trickle hit the water in the bowl and so, for that tiny little piddle in the puddle, he got a brand new car out of the bag.

The next day he got several cars, the next day more cars, the next day…. only 3 days in, he got Mac the truck.

By the time the week was over, he had every single car from all 4 bags and never once wore a diaper again. And he wasn’t sad in the slightest that he didn’t get a reward after they were gone either… yes, I feared that the day would come when he’d be expecting the rewards to keep coming forever. But that didn’t happen because he sat there and watched the bags empty, he knew when it was done.

On our drive back to Canada the following week (that makes 2 weeks later now), he had an accident in the car and broke down crying… he felt so devastated, so bad… that he didn’t pee in the toilet.

It was truly remarkable at how quickly he took to it, even more remarkable at how important it became to him that he never pee anywhere but a toilet ever again… in fact, he won’t even pee outside on the side of the road or anything.

Now, I know and understand that I’m a lucky one, that toilet training simply is not that easy for everyone, I also understand that for Autism, you’re not supposed to feed an obsession like that, I also understand that you’re not supposed to bribe your child to accomplish these things…. man, I sure am breaking a lot of rules/trends, aren’t I?

That’s the thing, there are no rules, there are no right and wrong’s… you know your child better than all the article writers and professionals in the world. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t go out there and look for advice and new ways to do it when all the things you’ve tried won’t work… what I’m saying is, don’t shy away from trying something just because someone somewhere said it was some big no no, that they’ll look down on you for it.

I knew my son would love those cars, I knew that he’d be willing to pee in a toilet for them and I was right…. more so, he surprised me at it!

Was I a lucky one? Or did I not listen to the nay-sayers and just did what I knew would work for my situation? Hmm….

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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One Response to Toilet Training a Child With Autism

  1. Mommy @ stark. raving. mad. mommy. July 5, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    I am all about bribery for potty training. It ends up being cheaper than diapers anyway. So far no luck with getting our Little Dude (age 4) to use the toilet. I think he geniunely lacks the muscle control / awareness still.

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