Potty Training Autism: Toilet Training Guide & Tips for Parents and Professionals

If you’re having problems with potty training, you aren’t alone, but it also means you are likely having struggles in other developmental areas. I created this free ebook on potty training autism, and I am going to take a few minutes to tell you what’s inside the book in this video blog.

Each week I provide you with some of my ideas about turning autism around, so if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel, you can do that now and join the tens of thousands of others who already have.

My free ebook on potty training autism is a little over 20 pages in length. I might decide to sell it eventually or at some point, but right now, you can get it at no cost by going to marybarbera.com/potty.

Why You Need this Guide

In addition to being a behavior analyst and the mom of 2 young adult sons (one of whom has autism), I have been a registered nurse since the mid-1980s. And when we’re talking about a bodily function like potty training, I do think that my long career as a registered nurse, especially my work with neurologically impaired patients, really helped guide me into the world of potty training my two boys as well as potty training or helping to potty train many of my clients.

I run a few online courses for parents and professionals in the autism world, but I don’t have one specifically related to potty training children with autism. This is because I truly believe that if you are having problems with potty training, you’re likely also having a lot of other problems like problem behaviors, not talking a lot, not conversational, failure to go through the daily routines by themselves, and safety concerns. And this is true whether your child or client is 4 or 5, 14 or 40 years of age. Instead of creating an entire course around setting up a toileting routine, I talk about it in my current courses.

Inside the Guide

So in the table of contents of my guide, I go over the research related to potty training in the field of autism. A lot of behavior analysts I know say to do the Azrin and Foxx method. But there are some steps to this method that can become extremely problematic. I show you those steps and what to do instead in that section of the guide.

The guide will go over determining a child’s readiness for toilet training and answer the question Is a child ever too “low functioning” to be potty trained? It goes over where you start, whether you’re going to do a scheduled training or a more intensive in the bathroom method or some combination of both of them. The guide tells you what materials you need, who’s going to coordinate between school and home, and lots more information. Then it talks also about bowel training, when to sit on a toilet, and wiping. We have tips for nighttime training and toileting accidents or regression after the child is toilet trained. So it’s a very meaty guide.

3 Steps to Potty Training

I’m very proud that I was able to put this guide together and we were able to offer it for free. My approach differs from doctors Azrin and Foxx’s approach in 2 ways. They have 5 steps in their procedure, including the 3 steps that I do use. So I’m going to tell you what 3 steps I do use and the 2 steps that I no longer use.

  1. The first step I use is a schedule. So, putting the child on a schedule, whether that is every 15 minutes, every half an hour, or every hour. In the beginning, it’s going to have to be more frequent.
  2. The second step I use is extra drinks, especially if you’re trying to get them potty trained quickly. Specifically, a favorite drink that is consistent. So not just like he has 2 Caprisuns at lunch and then he doesn’t drink the rest of the day. So it needs to be extra drinks and more consistent drinks like 4 ounces an hour for smaller children or more than that potentially for older children.
  3. The last step I use is data collection – and it doesn’t have to be scary data. It can just be whether they sat on the toilet, whether they peed, whether they had a bowel movement, either in the toilet or in a diaper, those sorts of things. So it doesn’t have to be hard data, but it needs to be some information that we can make data-based decisions with.

Problems to Avoid

Doctors Azrin and Foxx in their book, Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, which was published in 1974, also includes 2 steps that I don’t use. One of them is dry pants checks to make sure the child can stay dry, which involved keeping the child in underwear and visually inspecting the underwear at a time schedule.

You can see how that would not be appropriate in a public school setting where the child would then just be in underwear. So dry pants checks are kind of out with my approach as well as positive practice. This is a punishment procedure and in most cases not legal to carry out within public school settings, especially without really having a system of positive reinforcement.

Get the Guide

My approach differs from what a lot of behavior analysts are following right now in terms of toilet training. So you will want to check out the full guide at marybarbera.com/potty. I do have a podcast on potty training autism too that can help.

I also talk about potty training throughout my online courses and community. If you’d like to find out more about joining those, you can go to marybarbera.com/workshops. If you liked this video/article on potty training autism, give me a thumbs up, share the video, leave a comment, and I will see you right here next week.