How To Toilet Train An Autistic Child

How To Toilet Train An Autistic Child

Toilet training is a challenging time in every household, and it can be even more difficult if your child is on the autism spectrum. It could take longer and pose extra challenges, but hopefully, these tips will help your child to meet this milestone. 

Timing can be very important

Choose a time when you are going to be around home for a few days, there are some signs to look out for to know when your child is ready.

  1. Is your child aware of needing to go to the toilet?
  2. Do they appear uncomfortable when they are wet or have soiled themselves?
  3. Do they let you know that they need changing?
  4. Has your child shown an interest in using the loo or potty?

The goal here is independent toileting, and it can take many months of small steps – but your child will get there. 

Often parents use social motivation, such as wanting to be a “big boy or girl” or wanting to be like an older sibling. Also, after being content in nappies for several years, your child might not see the point in moving out of nappies. All children are different, and you have to figure out what works best for you and your child.

potty training an autistic child

Six tips towards successful toilet training 

  1. Start nappy changing in the bathroom, so nappy and the bathroom become connected in your child’s mind.
  2. Ensure everyone who cares for your child is on-board and sticks to the methods you have chosen. Send the same equipment into your child or toddler’s nursery as you would use at home. Consistency can help here.
  3. Observe your child over a few days, to see when they go. Identifying a time when they often go can improve your chances of taking them to try at the right time. 
  4. If they start to go and you dash to the bathroom, even a little bit in the potty is worthy of praise. 
  5. Use a visual reminder in the bathroom, trousers down, pants down, on to the loo, wipe, pants up, trousers up, flush, wash hands. You could use photos, pictures, or words – whatever you think will work. Keep the sequence the same every time. 
  6. Praise or reward, it’s up to you. Some children will respond to verbal praise or a treat. Others prefer to calmly return to whatever they were doing beforehand, without much fuss. Learn what works for your toddler or child.
Dressing and undressing

Improve your child’s chances of making it to the potty on time by dressing them in easy to remove clothes. 

toddler with pottiagogo


Follow the same steps each time, you should be there to remind your child at the start, then gradually stop using verbal reminders and just be there with them. You might want to teach your child with cold water only, to avoid accidental over-stimulation of the senses. 

Bowel Control

For most children, bladder control comes first, some children find bowel movements scary, and some are used to the feeling of a full nappy and get comfort from that feeling. There are other ways to meet that sensory need with a warm heavy blanket, this could be included in their routine. 

Some parents find that their child needs a nappy to go and if this applies you could consider cutting a hole in the nappy and putting your child on the potty.  Gradually cut away more and more of the nappy until they can go without it. 

To stand or sit?

If you have a son, whether you chose to potty train standing or sitting is completely dependent on what he is most comfortable with.If he would prefer to stand, try using target stickers to help improve aiming in the potty. 

Forming a habit

Take your child to the bathroom at set times each day, make it a calm and relaxing place. You could keep some toys, or books in the bathroom for these times – nothing too stimulating, but interesting enough to make it fun. 

Think about the environment

Is the soap too strong of a smell for your child? Is the noise of the extractor fan too loud, could you switch it off while your child is in the bathroom? Maybe it is too bright and pulling the blind would help. Your child may need to sit on the toilet or potty for a while, so it needs to be a comfortable experience. 

Night-time toilet training

potty training at night

Many children are consistently dry throughout the day for a time before they are dry during the night. You can improve their chances by restricting drinks too close to bedtime. 

Take your child to the bathroom before they go to bed and it can be helpful to take them again as you go to bed. Accidents can happen, so use some products to protect the mattress, such as a mattress protector and bed wetting pads.

We hope these tips will prove helpful, and that in time your child will meet this milestone. 

Want to read more on potty training? Check out these blog posts:

How Long Should My Toddler Sit On The Potty & Other Common Potty Questions

When Do I Know My Toddler Is Ready To Potty Train?

My Toddler Won't Use A Potty, What Do I Do?

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