I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “Potty training is one of my least favorite things in all of motherhood.” Even my daughter, who was hands down the easiest of my three in the potty-training endeavor, still had me going round and round with her for a few months before she was fully trained. Then one day for her, it just clicked, and she started using the potty as she was supposed to. A lot of potty-training advice will be along these same lines. It will tell you to wait until the child is READY. But what if you have a child that never has that “click moment?” What if you have a child that without pushing won’t be potty trained until they are 5, or 6, or 10!?! This is exactly what we ran into with Damion. Without push, I have doubts that he would be fully potty trained even now. And since potty training is one of the things I am asked about most by other parents and providers of children with autism, I would assume there are quite a few on the autism spectrum that really struggle with this too.
On top of all the normal potty-training issues that parents have, parents with kids on the spectrum may have a few more hurdles to jump over. There are a lot of sensory issues that can be involved with potty training. There are a lot of established routines that have to change when moving from wearing diapers to properly using the potty. Communication also plays a big role in letting people know when you have to use the potty and if you need help. All of these things that go along with autism can play a big role in how good or bad potty training will go. Our potty-training journey basically happened in two phases, so today I am going to start with phase 1- Urine training, and hit on the 4 big highlights that helped us work our way through getting him to go #1 in the potty.
- Old School Start
Well, we needed to make a big start somewhere, because the little introductions to the potty did not seem to be working for us. Damion was about 3 ½ at the time when I decided to take charge of it. We went for old school method of naked, in the bathroom, and watch. I picked a long 4-day weekend that I had from work, got a babysitting for my daughter, and we set up shop in our downstairs bathroom with plans to spend the whole day in there. It was a set day for potty training and nothing else. We had some snacks, some toys, a tablet to watch, and all the items needed to use the potty. It was a diaper free zone. I had a child urinal set up as well as the toilet (I thought options may help). And I had plenty of items to clean up any messes. The goal was to stay in the room, and I would be a hawk, ready to put him on the potty or at the urinal with the first sign of anything. The plan was just to establish the new routine. Use the potty, get a reward, and repeat. The long weekend just meant we had a lot of days to practice before I had to go back to work. Setting up this new routine was a big step and for many kids, this may be the only step you have to do. For Damion, we still had a few more steps to go.
- Boys being boys
I don’t know what it is, but boys love peeing outside. If you live in the country and have trouble with some of the potty-training stuff inside, try to aim for some time outdoors. For us, we have an upper-level back deck and to this day both my boys still like to “pee off the deck” any chance they get. Whatever gets them interested in not going in there pants I guess…. I figure if your family likes the outdoors, teaching them ways to go outside can come in handy so that they don’t get too obsessed with the potty in case you are in a scenario where a toilet is not available. Yes, this may mean in the future you have to remind them that they can’t just “go” outside anywhere they want (as you are at a graduation party and they start to pull their pants down). It may also mean that you have to explain to your daughter that peeing off the deck isn’t really a viable option for her and have her pout or make a mess trying to attempt it anyway. Nonetheless, it may be a good way to get the ball rolling on removing the diaper.
- “Going Commando”
We spent a few long days in that bathroom with hopes he would come out fully trained with #1. But unfortunately, we found that any time we put underwear on him, he would still have accidents. I don’t know if it was a sensation thing, or if he just thought if something was on it was ok to not use the potty? With very limited verbal skills to tell me, it was hard to know why. So, we did some trial and error. Through this we found that if he was naked, he didn’t have accidents, but if he had underwear on, he always would. So, we trialed shorts and pants without underwear, and for some reason that worked. So we went with it for a bit.
- Introducing Underwear
We let his preschool teachers know, and we went on a few months in the “commando” phase. After talking about it with our county play consultant, she suggested we try and use looser fitting underwear, under the assumption that it was the sensation of having something tighter on that was making him feel like he was wearing a diaper or pullup. So, I searched the internet and found some boxer briefs for little boys. They worked like a charm. Another small transition and one step closer to the goal. After a few more months of being urine trained and wearing boxers, we were finally able to transition to regular little boys’ underwear with no more issues. The routine had been fully set at that point and there was no turning back.
Down with the first big step, training to go #1 in the potty was officially complete! I knew full well that training to go #2 was going to be a whole other level of difficult. But you have to start somewhere and I was happy that I was half way to having him potty trained. As you can tell, there are a lot of variations with issues that come with potty training any child. It is not a one-size fits all approach. Some of my problems will not be your problems, and vice versa. Knowing that, one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give about the whole process is if the problem is not routine-based, then BE FLEXIBLE, and BE CREATIVE. It can sometimes take some thinking outside the box to solve your particular problem. Hopefully this helps with some good ideas and be sure to check out next weeks blog where I cover our journey in training on how to go #2!
Potty training is one of my least favorite things in all of motherhood