How to Toilet Train your Autistic Child (Part 2)

In this second post on how to toilet train your autistic child, you’ll learn about: day vs night time training, urine vs bowel training and how to leverage reinforcement. Make sure to check out last week’s blog Toilet Training Tips from ABA Therapy (Part 1) for more information and tips!


Day vs Nighttime Toilet Training:

Many children, especially boys, continue to have nighttime accidents for years after they’ve become daytime trained. Often nighttime training isn’t possible because the child’s body isn’t waking up when they have to pee. It’s not a matter of motivating the child or setting a schedule.

If your child is above age 7 and is still having consistent nighttime accidents you should consult their paediatrician.

Some strategies to avoid nighttime accidents are:

  • Avoid beverages 2 hours before bed
  • Make one or two bathroom trips before putting your child to sleep
  • Gently wake your child to take them to pee before you go to bed yourself

How to use Reinforcement to Toilet Train your child:

When you’re beginning to toilet train your child, you should observe their interests and preferences. We want to use the things they like the most to motivate them to learn this new skill. Children need to be ‘paid’ to put in hard work, just like adults! When you have identified their most reinforcing items you want to begin to limit access to these items. If the child knows they can get the reinforcer later (without having to do the work) there won’t be any reason to do the hard stuff.

Some parents will put the reinforcer right into the bathroom, on a high shelf. The child should be able to see it but not touch it. Be very clear and explicit with your child that they need to pee or poo in the toilet or potty if they want to gain access to the reward. Stand your ground! If they don’t engage in the desired behaviour they can try again later. Don’t give them the reinforcer unless they use the toilet!

Lollipops used to Toilet train at Side by Side ABA Therapy

Some examples of reinforcers used to toilet train are:

  • Individually wrapped chocolates (snack sized)
  • Jelly beans
  • Lolly pops
  • Freezies
  • Hot Wheels Cars
  • Action figures
  • Special priviledges

When your child is successful and uses the toilet or potty, BRING THE CIRCUS TO TOWN! You want to pair social praise with the reinforcer so that eventually you can fade the reinforcer.

Urine vs Bowel Training:

Some children have a hard time learning to have bowel movements in the toilet. There can be feelings of loss of control, sensory needs or even fear (of pain) that can inhibit a child from reliably having bowel movements in the toilet. It is often necessary to toilet train for urine first before trying to teach bowel training.

When you’re tracking your child’s toileting schedule, you should take note of if the child voided their bladder or moved their bowels. Many children have a consistent bowel movement schedule while voiding urine can be more flexible.

You might also have to use different reinforcers for urine vs bowel training. A higher level reinforcer would be used for bowel training as it’s generally more difficult for the child to master. Sometimes we use the same reinforcer but a bigger portion (instead of just a few gummies giving a handful).

Conclusion:

When a family decides to toilet train, it can be a very stressful time for everyone. Using these ABA Therapy strategies will help make the process smoother and more enjoyable. Contact Side by Side Therapy today to get some advice about toilet training.

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