If you are interested in toilet training your child on the Autism spectrum or are revisiting this topic after taking a break, I’m going to share some ideas with you to send you down the path toward toilet training success!
For many of us, we have been told for years that all things to do with pee and poop are dirty, yucky and gross. We are taught that the art of peeing or pooping is something we keep to ourselves, we don’t talk about it, we don’t want to smell it (think air fresheners) and we definitely don’t want to see it! We have all had the experience of visiting a public restroom and even seeing someone else’s pee or poop that has not been flushed down the toilet properly! Let’s face it though, peeing and pooping is as normal and natural a thing as can be. However, we teach our children to follow our example and keep it under lock down just as we do.
Now let’s take our children. Some of them are visual learners and need to actually see things to understand them. Some of them need time to process so may need to hear a concept or idea a few times. Others may need demonstration on our part to really get this so the whole thing requires a shift in our thinking and current beliefs about toileting. Instead of trying to hide all things pee and poop, we suggest you begin to have fun with this in the following ways.
1) Tell them and show them what is happening with their body. For example, next time you are doing a diaper change with your child and they have pooped, show them your smiling, excited face instead of your “yucky” face and let them hear you tell them “You did it! You pooped! Your body is so amazing and did exactly what it’s supposed to do, yay! Instead of balling up the diaper immediately and disposing of the poop, show them the poop in their diaper so they can actually visualize it and then excitedly invite them with you to the bathroom so you can pop that little (or big) poop into the toilet and they can see exactly where it is supposed to go. This is an important step toward them recognizing what their body does and then seeing where it should go once they have done it. What better way to begin this process?
2) Tell them how to recognize cues their body is giving them. One vital thing for them to understand in order to have toileting success is for them to be in touch with the way their body feels and operates. We know ourselves when we have a pee coming, and we know when we have a poop coming. This is because our bodies send us different messages.
Let’s describe this to our children and help them understand the signals the are getting. For example, when you next have to poop yourself, playfully say “Ooh! I have a feeling, a pushing feeling in my tummy….I think I need to go poop!” Be excited about this and know that your 3 E’s (energy, excitement and enthusiasm) is something that our children tend to notice and enjoy. Announce that you are going to the toilet and then purposely DO NOT flush afterwards. I know, I know, this is the opposite of what you want to do but hey, they need to see a poop in the toilet to recognize that their poop too belongs in there right? With a pee, you can do the same thing; let them know what if feels like in your body and how you know you have to pee. If you can bring your child into the bathroom with you then they will hear the sound of the pee and you can talk them through the steps in an excited way (e.g. “I’m peeing in the potty!” “I feel so much better now I went pee!” “Now for the fun part….we need to flush it down!” If you are reading this as a Father of boys, definitely show them how you pee yourself so they can see it being done in action.
3) Make it fun and motivating for your child. Before you even decide to transition to underwear and remove the diapers, think of ways that you can bring what they love to the toilet and invite them to want to sit on it. Perhaps you could decorate the toilet with some fun pictures of their favorite characters for example. Make sure the bathroom is inviting for your sensitive child. That the lighting is warm and friendly and that there are no overwhelming smells from perfumes or soaps. Spend more time in the bathroom throughout the day than you usually do. Do your diaper changes in the bathroom and experiment with different types of potty’s your child might take to. Here are some fun pictures of how other parents have decorated their toilets for their children:
4) When your child is engaging with you, invite them to come check out the toilet. If they are enjoying a Piggyback ride for example, take them on a ride to the bathroom where you each drop off a pee in the potty. If they love the Minions, make one of their stuffed minions sit on the toilet and pretend to push out a poo using a funny Minion voice. The idea here is to be playful, relaxed and not to push but to invite and inspire.