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potty training my 3 year old son with ASD or trying to!!

28 replies

bananasinpyjamas · 30/11/2006 21:52

Anyone got any ideas to help motivate my 3 and half year old son who has ASD with potty training.
He uses pull ups during day at mo.. lie down nappies (as he calls them) at night When tried to potty train in conventional way going cold turkey with nappies at first would say wee wee when it was happening, much praise and celebration, but a couple of days later didn't seem bothered. Almost as if he got used to it so it was no longer a problem to him.
Have been trying to think what will motivate him with actually having a wee in the right place be it potty or toilet. Stickers or praise won't be enough. Far to boring and meaningless for him. I'm currently thinking about musical potties. He's very kean on music and sounds and can do the answer phone message off to a t!!
I am slightly concerned about introducing a new thing which he may become completely dependant on but perhaps is worth the risk.
Has anyone had success with these or any other ideas which might be worth a try.

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Jimjams2 · 30/11/2006 22:05

We just kept sitting our son on the toilet repeatedly (he's non verbal and severely autistic); we did reward with choc buttons (his favourite thing in the whole world), but to be honest he just got it one day. Took about 8 months but one day it suddenly came together.

There is a book specifically about toilet training children on the autistic spectrum- it's avaialble on Amazon I think.

bananasinpyjamas · 30/11/2006 22:15

Cheers. Chocolate buttons are a favorite in our house too and certainly worth a try. When did you go nappy free?

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bananasinpyjamas · 30/11/2006 22:18

Sorry that sounds like I'm after date and time!!! To re phrase, did you wait till your son was fully potty trained before going nappy free or just when some successes started happening?

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Jimjams2 · 30/11/2006 23:58

erm can't remember! We had incontinence pants for a long time. Lollipop do pants that you can use with a disposable pad. I think we had to go nappy free at home with lots of accidents then expand..... I made a bit of a cock up though as I was trying to tie it in with requesting- so trying to tie it in with language, actually lack of language wasn't a problem at all.

Homsa · 01/12/2006 20:49

My DS is also 3 and a half and has ASD, I potty trained him a few months ago and he went from resisting to even sit on the potty with his clothes on to being completely toilet trained in less than 2 weeks. And yep, chocolate buttons had a lot to do with it!

I started by making a step-by-step visual guide and posting that on the bathroom door, I think that really helped him understand what was expected of him. You can download some good pictures from

We then went cold turkey - no more nappies during the day under any circumstances! - and reinforced even the slightest approximations of the desired behaviour with chocolate, praise and a sticker chart. I.e., at first he got the full works for merely sitting on the potty for a few seconds, then only for weeing into the potty standing up (that is, me "catching" it!), then for weeing into the potty sitting down, then for weeing into the potty with his trousers and pants pulled down to the knees rather than being taken off completely, etc.

The first 3 or 4 days were horrendous, first he was weeing and pooing everywhere, then he held his wee in until he was doubled over in pain... I was this close to giving up! And then on day 4 everything just fell into place. He actually started using the big toilet on his own.

I think the crucial thing about any kind of motivator is that you have to be really, really strict about withholding it for anything but the desired behaviour, otherwise it won't work. HTH

bananasinpyjamas · 01/12/2006 22:56

Thanks for posts jimjams and homsa. Quite good to hear it may take 1 week or 8 months. I guess its something that'll happen when its ready. Had a look on the do2learn website. Very useful. Will defo print some picture cards off. Good idea. Think will also go full on with the chocolate buttons!.
My thoughts with the musical potty is that when I catch his wee it'll draw his attention to the fact he's had a wee in the potty. But do worry he'll expect a tune from every toilet he sits on and this disappointment could ruin any success. Sometimes it can be hard to tell what he's taking in arouind him though I suspect its quite a lot nut he's just not letting on!
Will also look at the trainer pants. Havn't looked lollipop up yet. Will do so now!!

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Jimjams2 · 01/12/2006 23:32

I thought about the musical potty as well- but he was quite big so we went straight to the toilet (and I thought it cut out another thing to learn iiyswim). He didn't lead up to it at all. one day (well for 8 months) he was completely untoilet trained then the next day he just got it- pretty much no accidents.

Does he have dyspraxia or anything as well- as that can make it harder.

bananasinpyjamas · 03/12/2006 12:13

No dyspraxia but does have low muscle tone. I have a feeling he will just get it one day. He refused to drink out of a cup until a fortnight ago then just decided he would do it! Much to my surprise. I think I've fallen in to the trap of not sitting him on the toilet on a regular basis because the nappies are in situ. Easily done in the grand scheme of things when everything can be more difficult.
He is big for using a potty and I totally agree about perhaps introducing too many steps. Perhaps I need to just go for it with toilet and chocolate buttons and see how he goes on.
Kinda dreading it but gotto do it eventually!!

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emmalou78 · 03/12/2006 21:46


It has taken 13 months, but [touching wood furtivley] my autistic, barely verbal son [almost 4 and a half]is clean and dry day and night, save for the occasional accidents, but EVERYONE has accidents right?

There are many ways to do it, we just made sure EVERYTHING to do with weeing and pooing happened in the bathroom, once he was desensitised to the toilet, I put him in normal pants at home and we wingedit from there, in the end spent every toilet trip a day for 6 weeks sat reading pingu with him so he was distracted whilst he wee'd and poo'd, then one day, he just went and did it.

A month ago he broke out in a rash [allergy from pull ups] and there was nowhere open to by a different brand, so he went without and has been dry all but one night since.

I hope theres somethng in there that helps people, otherwise, I hope you enjoyed my detailed account of potty training ds2

em x

bananasinpyjamas · 03/12/2006 23:02

Thanks Em. Do feel more motivated reading everyone's accounts. Am impressed your son clean and dry at night too. Haven't thought too much about that one yet.
Gonna get set up with the books, chocolate buttons and pictures and see how it goes.
Gonna start tomorrow!!

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COPPERfeelunderSantasTOP · 04/12/2006 11:01

Good luck, BIP.

I'm going through this with ds2 atm (3.10yrs and autistic)and it's not easy. Ds1 was slightly older when he 'got' it so there's hope yet.

mummy2aaron · 04/12/2006 21:50

DS is 4 in Feb. He has asd. Last Spring I was told not to bother until he was 4. Last summer he did it himself, just took himself off to the toilet - came back naked and he has to be naked when he goes (mental note to sort that before school in september lol) but he flushes and washes his hands and everything. He has the visual reminders - eg pecs - pants down - toilet - flush - pants up - wash hands but I doubt he needs it as he was doing it before i stuck them on the wall. So proud lol.

onlyjoking9329 · 04/12/2006 23:22

toilet training my 3 was a nightmare, my twin girls were out of nappies at 6 DS was 3 1/2
we had three different approches 1 for each child! we used chocolate for one girl and small toy for other girl, we put the goods on a high up shelf (anybody else have lots of high shelves!)they could see the rewards which worked well!
DS would not sit on the loo, what worked for him was the portable video player in the bathroom and thomas the f'ing tank engine! i would only press play when he sat on the loo pressed pause if he got off, that worked a treat!
the other thing we did with all three was to put pants on under the nappy so that they got to feel wet and we didn't have the stress of puddles everywhere.
i did have the toilet training children with autism book and to be honest didn't find anything useful in it, it did sugest cutting a hole in the nappy and sitting your child on the loo til they got used to the loo and gradually making the hole bigger until they were not wearing a nappy, i can only imagine the mess this would make with disposables.

sphil · 05/12/2006 09:21

This thread is making me feel guilty as i haven't even started with DS2 yet and he's four. My reasoning is that he dislikes the potty (too cold on bum I think) and doesn't mind the toilet, but we don't have a downstairs loo. When we tried in the summer (OK it was only for two days it was a disaster). So I'm thinking I'll wait until we move - a downstairs loo is a priority for us when looking for new house.

What do you all think? Am I leaving it too late? (It'll probably be May/June at earliest when we move.) I know that potty training is the part of child rearing I most hate, so am aware I may be making excuses to put off the evil day. Don't know why I hate it so much - I don't mind mess - but the whole thing makes me so tense.

Homsa · 05/12/2006 11:34

I was dreading potty training too, and then it turned out to be much easier than I'd thought. Well, apart from the first few days! Have to say though, if I hadn't decided to stick with it for "just one more day" when things were really not going well, DS would still be in nappies now.

sphil, we don't have a downstairs loo either, it's annoying as I still don't think it's safe for DS to go up and down the stairs on his own (he's a bit dyspraxic). So he still uses a downstairs potty if he needs a wee, but asks to go upstairs to the toilet for a poo. I can't remember how that one came about, but I like it

mummy2aaron, we also have a problem with DS taking his clothes off completely, it's because he absolutely HATES his clothes getting wet. I usually manage to get him to keep them on by getting out the chocolates and stickers again, but then he accidentally gets a bit of wee on his socks, and we're back to square one!

About using picture schedules, just wanted to say that you have to be really careful about which pictures you choose, ours featured a naked bum hovering over a toilet (in the process of sitting down), so my literal-minded boy thought we wanted him to hover over the toilet rather than sit down on it! Took quite a while to convince him otherwise!

sphil · 05/12/2006 12:48

Trouble is, DS2 wouldn't ask. I tried taking him to loo at intervals when I tried before - can't see any other way to do it with him. Won't sit on potty, so have to go upstairs for everything, but can't tell me he needs to go. He's not good at identifying things which are out of sight, iyswim. Will try with PECS when I attempt it again. Sometime before he's 21....

Pixel · 05/12/2006 12:56

Sphil, I wouldn't feel guilty. My ds is only just potty trained and he's 6.5, no way would he have been ready at 4. Even now we are having a bit of a 'relapse', just when I'm really having trouble getting washing dry. We've only got an upstairs toilet as well so had to have a potty downstairs (which he wasn't too keen on to start with) but we got there in the end (thank goodness for smarties!). I think he's just playing me up for some reason now tbh because he seems perfectly fine at school. What the others have said is right though about persevering. We struggled all through the summer holidays with such little success that I really was on the verge of giving up (if only for the sake of the carpets - rented house=nightmare!) when he suddenly got it. I couldn't believe it at first and we had a few little trips out nappyless to gain confidence and that was it. He was out of daytime nappies completely within a couple of weeks. It was quite strange and very different from training dd who understood what she was meant to do much earlier but had more accidents and for longer.

Pixel · 05/12/2006 13:00

Ds won't ask either (with PECS) and is non-verbal so I know what you mean. Also he really doesn't mind being wet or dirty, it's all the same to him. I just have to march him off to the toilet at every opportunity so if he needs to go he can. Seems to work ok most of the time.

COPPERfeelunderSantasTOP · 05/12/2006 15:31

Don't feel guilty, Sphil! Besides, at the rate things are going, my ds2 may well be 21 before he 'gets' it. Atm it's going something like this:

Ds2 asks for pants instead of a nappy. I do a happy dance and think "This is it!" Ds2 point-blank refuses to use the potty or the toilet and then asks for dry pants because his are wet. He then wets in those and asks for a nappy. I decide to leave it for a few weeks or even months and then 2 days later ds2 asks for pants.

And this just seems to be a neverending loop. Personally I'd be happy to leave it for at least a few more months but I don't dare refuse when ds2 asks for pants in case this time is actually the time IYKWIM.

Socci · 05/12/2006 17:06

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn

sphil · 05/12/2006 22:50

Sorry CT but at DS2!

COPPERfeelunderSantasTOP · 05/12/2006 23:30

Sphil - The cheeky little monkey always seems so genuine too.

Socci - I think I need someone who can see in advance when ds2 needs to go.


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bananasinpyjamas · 07/12/2006 20:44

Only just checked out this thread again and am amazed. Brilliant to get so many stories and top tips!! From Monday onwards the chocolate buttons have been in use for toilet and potty. Have kept with the pull ups but had an IEP meeting today and one of the suggestions re toilet training was putting pants under pull ups - thought good idea so am gonna add that in.
ds very keen to sit on the toilet but not till I'm holding chocolate buttons so he can see them. The next challenge is to keep everything pointing in the right direction but am happy for a wee in any direction at the moment so long as it happens on the toilet!
Love the idea of a tele and video in the bathroom, think everyone would disappear for hours when paying a visit to be found later half way through their favourite video. Still... whatever works...
Sphil, we don't have a downstairs loo either and ours is 2 floors up from kitchen so I too have been using this as an excuse. I am resorting to the potty downstairs and have found one like a chair which does a fanfare when wee'd on . Also have a musical potty like a car for childminder and poss school. Am hoping the musical reward of doing the do will help with the motivation.
Will keep an eye on this thread cos its a problem well shared and will post again when we have success. Could be a week or a year. Will have to see.
Thanks again everyone. I know I'm not alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(fgrin)

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Homsa · 07/12/2006 21:30

BIP, sounds like you're doing great if he's keen to sit on the toilet! Do you think the musical potty is working, then?

Pants under nappies is a brill idea, wish I'd had that one when I started potty training DS. Have to agree with Socci, though, I think once they're aware of what's going on and have some bladder control, it's best to do away with nappies completely. I think using pull-ups while potty training is confusing even for NT kids, but probably more so for autistic ones.

Keeping my fingers crossed for you, hopefully he'll get it soon!

bananasinpyjamas · 07/12/2006 22:57

One musical potty has arrived today and another being collected Sat so not yet tried and tested. Will see... May end up rigging a stereo to the toilet with a complicated arrangement of pressure pads but time will tell if I've made a grave mistake or not!!!
Have heard that before about the pull ups being confusing. Not sure what to do about that one cos could go nappy free at home but its when he's at childminder and school (4 days a week in total) that nappy free becomes a problem. I guess when he has a few successes that's the time to provide a suitcase of spare clothes wherever he goes!!

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