Potty Training #2

Thinking of starting to potty train your child on the spectrum? Don’t miss part #1 to this segment where I discuss how to master training for you guessed it, going number 1 (click here).

Ok, so you are done with urine training. Whether you decide to take a quick break or dive on in, we are ready to discuss the hurdles that come with training your child to poop in the potty. As I said in last week’s post, “I hate potty training”. One of my least favorite activities that comes with all of motherhood, and if I thought I hated it after urine training, I was sure to hate it after this next part. After Damion was urine trained, we took a big break. We got into an ease with the whole thing because Damion would hold having to go poop until he got home, at which point he would ask for a diaper to be put on. He knew when he had to go. He preferred to go off and hide somewhere to poop in the diaper. He DID NOT want to use the potty. We tried occasionally but the fight was a big one. So I got complacent. The once a day clean-up at home was easier than the fight. But of course, I knew we couldn’t go on like this forever. It was going to be a lot of work. I knew that I needed to be fully prepared mentally and be “all-in” to get over this next big hurdle. So, I read up, took suggestions, and gave it my all. As you will see, my process was a bit back and forth, trial and error, to get him fully potty trained and pooping in the potty. I’m going to go in detail, step-by-step to let you see just how much work it is, and to hopefully give you some useful ideas as well. Here is how it all went:

  1. Trial A (No diaper allowed)

This method is exactly what it sounds like. I trialed what would happen if I just refused to put a diaper on him when he asked to go poop. Long-story short: He held it. After a few too many days of this, knowing that it was not healthy to go on this way, I gave in, let him go in a diaper and decided to take another approach. (Through later research, we found that this can actually cause issues as well because after holding it for so long it can become painful to poop, making the experience a bad one if they did try to go on the potty.)

2. Trial B (Force it)

Again, pretty much what it sounds like. You give the child a laxative, or suppository, so that they HAVE to go poop. Then you wait in the bathroom, without the option of the diaper, and try to force them to use the potty. This involves a lot of crying and fighting and meltdowns. But in my head, I thought if I could just get him over this hump, just get him to use the potty and then give him a reward, we may be able to work through it. It was not a very successful endeavor either. What it did help me to discover was that he seemed to have a bit of a fear of pooping in the potty.

3. More research, more ideas

I did some more research trying to find anything on training an older autistic child to poop in the potty. I’ll be honest, there is not much out there. I took some suggestions as well from people we were working with too. I decided that working our way to a good experience on the potty was going to be my next goal. Having an experience that would be painful do to holding it in, or a screaming fight because I was forcing him to use the potty was not going to get me to this goal. So, we moved onto our next trial.

4. Trial C (Baby Steps)

Rome was not built in a day, and neither was this potty-training effort. I had devised this next trial with small steps in mind, and a big reward looming over. First off, I decided to take Damion’s favorite snack (goldfish crackers) out of his daily mix. Goldfish were only obtainable to him when he succeeded at each step.

Step 1) Introduction and set up

We were pretty new to the idea of social stories, but this was one of the suggestions that was made to me. I purchased a laminated book, with pictures on the process of using the potty that was easy to explain (click here for book). This came in handy. We would read it on a daily basis. Even bringing it in as a reminder throughout some of the next steps. We also got him a comfortable potty chair with a foot rest to try and make sure the task was as easy and as comfortable as it could be (click here for potty chair we used). And as I said, we had his goldfish crackers ready to go for a reward.

Step 2) Location

Damion’s favorite set up for pooping was with a diaper on, by himself, in a closet. In his limited verbal skills, he would even make the request “Closet poop!” anytime he had to go. So, our first step was to move his location to the bathroom. It took a small amount of push back. But once he saw his reward and that it was only a location change, he went with it. We continued this pattern for a week including giving him the reward for this step, then we continued on.

Step 3) Sit on toilet with diaper on

Now that this new step was started, he no longer received rewards for just being in the bathroom. The reward mark was moved to being able to just sit on the potty with the diaper on. Some people may think this is an unnecessary step, but since Damion almost seemed that he had a fear of pooping on the potty, it was a step that we needed. The potty seat we used was helpful to get him into a somewhat comfortable position. There are a lot of variations for kids’ potty chairs online. We were adamite that we needed one with a foot rest, and we wanted something that would go on the actual toilet. For kids that have become used to squatting, transition to a new position can be one of the biggest challenges, so we were pushing to make it as easy as possible. Finding one for the toilet just meant less issues with change again in the future. This step took a little longer than the first. Damion liked to be by himself, so I would leave the room, and pop in for checks every few minutes. Whenever he wasn’t on the potty, I would sit him back on, and remind him of the reward. Cleanup for this step included dumping at least some of the waste into the toilet and making him flush. Then we would cheer and he would receive the reward. To master this step, we stuck with it for about 2 weeks before pushing to the next.

Step 4) Hole in the diaper

Yes, you read that right. We had mastered sitting on the toilet with a diaper on, so now it was time to get that stuff into the toilet. I had a diaper premade up, and ready to go. He still did not like me in the room, which is ok but trickier as you don’t want a big mess (and yes, we had at least one incident with this exact issue as I became distracted by one of my other children. Mom life can be really messy sometimes.) Once we were successful just a few times with this step, we were able to take the diaper away. You may think that this would mean we were finished but there is still one more step to master.

Step 5) Not at home

We worked hard to master going #2 at home, but for kids that don’t generalize things well, you may still have some issues when you are somewhere else. We did our best to take the toilet seat and his social stories book with us for a while, but sometimes you just don’t have it with you. All I can say is do your best to power through and make sure you travel with cleanup items and extra clothes until this step is mastered too. For us, this step was not as hard as the rest, but still took some time to go as smooth as it did for us at home. The longer they are potty trained at home, the easier this step will become as well.

FINALLY, potty training was complete! Damion was a few months older than 5 at this point and we met our set goal to have him fully potty trained before he started kindergarten. As you can see, this was not your average “Potty train your kids in 3 days” type of advice. There was no way around it, potty training was hard for us. We had to try quite a few techniques before we found the “baby steps method” that worked so well for Damion. But this method may not be the right one for everyone. Be flexible and be creative in your approach if necessary. For my youngest who has communication issues, we were able to just go through the basic steps but had to start labeling everything by color to help him understand what he was supposed to be doing. Which leaves me with a child that now says he needs to “push out the brown” every time he has to go. I can’t make this stuff up.

I’m sure in my younger years I would have laughed if someone told me I would write an entire in-detail piece about potty training, but here I am living the mom dream. Potty training is gross, and difficult. But it is also so important to help your child live an independent life. So, keep at it. I know its hard, but getting it done will be so worth it for you and your child both.