Ideas To Help Toilet/Potty Train An Autistic Child

l,op

I keep stumbling across posts all over social media from parents and carers asking about continence and toilet/potty training tips and ideas and finding myself repeating the same stuff on each one so it seemed a good time to put it in one place and do a blog. Eliza is 8 years old, diagnosed ASD age 3. Continence was always one thing she struggled with, she just didn’t show any signs of awareness or understanding it until last year and I’d tried various things over the years. During last winter, aged 7, something just clicked and I put a plan in place that I knew she’d both understand and love and it worked. I’ll post a link to the blog that covered that later on.  It was a perfect situation for us as I got to use Eliza’s favourite time of year to give that nudge she needed, and that she seemed ready for. It worked and she’s been officially classed as continent for six months now. We’d attempted potty training when younger and every now and then we tried again and it had never worked but we found some interesting ways to approach it so I’ll share them below.

*** These are ideas that helped us. They won’t work for everyone but you might get idea’s and be able to tweak them to suit ***

Favourite Characters

Being near Christmas when Eliza decided the time was right to toilet train, I used her love of Christmas as a nudge. I created personal letters from Santa and Mrs Claus and arranged a ‘special delivery’ from the North Pole. The package included knickers, toilet seat, books, reward charts. She loved it and was so excited about it. (You can read about how we did it here Striving for continence ). The letter was an excuse to add extra praise and support, full of lovely words and pictures.

If there is a favourite character they really love (someone from a cartoon or kids TV, someone from a book etc) it would be easy to recreate this and tailor it to them and your child’s personal needs and situation. It doesn’t need to be a specific time of year, just go with it and if you think your child would like it then get creative. You could even use a family member if that would work and after someone read my blog about continence last year, they used the family pet as the letter writer!. You know your kids so you’ll know their likes and what they might find fun or exciting.

Favourite Dolly or Teddy

If there is a favourite doll or teddy then this could work for children that tend to be more visual learners. I’d done this with Eliza many years ago but she’d clearly not been ready at that time. Use dolls or teddies and sit them on the potty. Hide a syringe up your sleeve (weak squash can be a bit more convincing than water, depends on whether your child will notice detail) and show your child what happens when sitting on the potty. Teddy can do a wee if you secretly squeeze that syringe in behind it. Lots of praise for teddy etc. It’s worked for quite a few children as they gained confidence seeing the process. I know some of you are thinking ‘what about poop?’ and yes, you can do similar and make your own pretend poop to use if you need to (Soft dough, icing and smooth peanut butter are good options. Add food colouring or chocolate spread to change the colour and use an icing piping bag to squeeze it from). It’s a little trickier to do these things is using a toilet instead of a potty but it can be done. You might need to practice hiding things up your sleeve and working it out but yeah. it’s achievable. **realising how much of my life was taken up with toilet issues 😛 **

Visual Aids 

Friends and family will testify that my bathroom had instructions on the wall for quite some time about how to go to the toilet…… in start to finish order including washing and drying of hands…. YEP!! Eliza is easily distracted and her anxiety can often make her lose her train of thought so I made visual prompts. We also had a smaller version of these laminated and on a key-ring for when we were out and about. They can be as descriptive or basic as you need. Pictures and/or written prompts.

Books we found useful

Suzie’s Toilet Time

Princess Polly’s Potty  (also a boys version ‘Pirate Pete’)

Toilet Time: A Training Kit for Girls (Ready to Go!) (also do a boys version)

Lulu’s Loo

There are also apps you can download if your child prefers those to books. ‘Potty time with Elmo’ was popular and ‘Potty train baby Eva’.

Whoever is wanting to toilet or potty train, involve them as much as possible. Let them choose underwear, style/design of potty, pull-ups, toilet seats. They can help you create reward charts of their choice or decorate it themselves. Get as many books as you can and see which they enjoy and understand better. Let them go at their pace and don’t worry if it doesn’t work first time. From first attempt to becoming continent it took Eliza four years! FOUR YEARS of trying stuff, finding ways she understood, different books, apps on the iPad, much trial and error. Four long years of her constantly watching me go to the toilet (Yeah, no privacy when you have kids!!). Just don’t give up because it can just take longer for some to be ready.

 

Striving for continence

I don’t normally talk about something so personal but I thought it was worth sharing our experience as lot of children struggle with continence. Continence is something Eliza has always struggled with. She is seven years old and wears pull-ups both day and night. There have been so many hurdles to jump including fear of small spaces, fear of noisy hand dryers and just being in a place that is always different. Lets face it, at home it is easier as the bathroom pretty much looks the same but when you are out and about every toilet place looks, smells and sounds different. It has taken years and I mean YEARS to bypass all these hurdles and we have gone at her pace with the odd nudge forward if we thought she was ready. There was even a time when she was a ‘smearer’ and for months we went through a regular routine involving bathing and cleaning rooms. I’m going to visualize so many parents nodding because they know what I mean. For those of you that don’t, brace yourselves…. Eliza would smear poop all over her walls, her clothes, her face, the carpet and any other surface she could reach. Mainly sensory led we worked hard to overcome that stage and *touches wood* it’s been a very long time since we saw any of that. It has been a long process of reassurance, explanations and visual aids but we are so close now. By we I obviously mean she,  Eliza is the one working towards being continent but I say we as it’s a journey of hers where I have always been by her side guiding her and preparing her. During the last few months she has been using the bathroom more and more and trying really hard to be continent.

After a lovely meeting with the continence team this week we decided it was time to take the next step and move from pull-ups (nappies but shaped like pants/knickers) to proper cotton knickers (Eliza has chosen to call them knickers but some of you may say pants, undies, underwear… but as Eliza calls her pull-ups ‘pants’ we needed a different word).  As it is such a change we thought using washable incontinence knickers would be a step forward – these are simply cotton and look like normal girls knickers but with a built in cotton booster to help with little accidents, you know those ‘not quite made it’ moments. The hope is as time progresses she will then just move on to normal girls knickers in time. We have extra books ready to help her learn about how it’s quite normal to use the loo etc. This is when I decided on a plan that may help her take to the idea even more.

Eliza LOVES Christmas, she adores Santa and every December she pretty much bounces rather than walks. So I decided to write her this letter…

elizasanta2016

This letter will be ‘delivered’ to her on Tuesday as she breaks up from School for the holidays. As you will see in the letter, we have mentioned Mrs Claus and a special present. To help Eliza with her next step towards continence and use her love of Christmas I am making up a pretty box, a ‘special present’ from Mrs Claus. Inside the box will be some pretty knickers, books, stickers and a new kids padded toilet seat (you know those ones you can move on and off as needed). It will be wrapped up and will have a letter from Mrs Claus attached. The fact that Santa, in his letter above, will have pre warned her about the present will ready her for the arrival of this special gift. This is the letter from Mrs Claus…

mrsclaslet

So that is my plan and I hope it helps her on her transition. I thought the special box should come from Mrs Claus, you know, girl to girl as such. So there it is, my cheeky use of something my child loves being used to try and help her with something she struggles with. It wont work for all children, this is just something I know will go down well with Eliza. Although I hope it gives some of you ideas that things like this can work. It doesn’t have to be Christmas, it could be linked to a favourite character or film. This is just something I know MY child will adore and be amazed at. Eliza is very visual, she likes to see/watch and to read and she will read the letters over and over with joy. I am hoping it gives her that extra boost in confidence to at least try the knickers and we will just from there, at her pace like we always do.