How to Potty Train a Child With Autism

Potty training any child can be frustrating at times, but the rules for potty training an autistic child are different. For this reason alone, it can be difficult to understand exactly how to get your autistic child to finally use the bathroom normally. While these instructions are not guaranteed to work on every single autistic child, they are the tried and true methods that typically do the trick.

Step 1

Purchase regular cotton underpants for your child. Remove the child’s diapers or pull-ups. While your autistic child may not be able to communicate with you very well, it doesn’t mean that he can’t understand you. When you remove the diapers or pull-ups, you let your child know that he has to learn how to use the bathroom. It also allows him to feel the wetness or dirtiness when he uses the bathroom in his underpants.

Step 2

Expect accidents to happen. You cannot expect a child who can communicate normally to never have an accident–and you certainly can’t expect your child with autism to never have an accident. Make sure that you’re always prepared with disinfectant cleaner for floors and a change of clothes and baby wipes for your child.

Step 3

Make the bathroom a “comfortable” place for your child. Ensure that if she is too small for the regular toilet seat that she has a smaller seat to place on top or an actual potty chair to use. Visit the bathroom often and allow your child to sit on the toilet. If your child has an accident, clean up at the potty so she will associate “using it” with the toilet.

Step 4

Create a “code” for when your child needs to potty. If your child can communicate with you pretty well, have him tell you a word when he needs to use the bathroom. Reinforce this by saying this word to your child when YOU need to use the bathroom and taking him with you when you go. Tell him that you’re “using the potty” and clap–make a minor celebration out of it so that your child understands that you’re doing a great job. He will also get the idea of what is supposed to happen in there. If your child can’t communicate with words, try a hand gesture or something similar.

Step 5

Avoid punishing your child for accidents. If you become angry at your child because she has accidents, you will only set her back further. Your child may try to hold it to avoid having an accident–which will only end up in more accidents and a fear of using the bathroom. Instead, don’t make a big deal out of the accidents and reward your child with lots of praise and love when she actually does use the potty.

Step 6

Allow it time. While it can seem as if your autistic child may never learn to use the potty, he can and will with your diligence and patience. He needs to learn a trust with both you and the bathroom because change is typically very hard for autistic children to deal with. Once this happens, you will see improvement and eventually you’ll have your autistic child potty trained.

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