Disabled daughter wetting and filling pants after being trained for years

James Rowen

New Member
Our daughter Tina (Name changed) is autistic and started going to a Day Hab Center here in town. There she made friends with a group of three other girls around her age and has been REALLY Blooming. THIS IS WONDERFUL for her!
However her best friend Sam (Name changed) has the mental capability of a toddler even though she is 20. She is not potty trained and wears diapers. After becoming friends for a couple of months our daughter Tina is now hanging out with Sam all of the time at the Day Hab. And doing everything Sam does, including wetting and filling her pants regularly.

At first just at day hab, now its at home, and everywhere else. She doesn't care if shes wet or soiled. She was potty trained at 11 and is in control of her functions. I was hoping this was a phase, but it its gone on for over 6 weeks. I was going to pull her out of the Day Hab, but shes made friends and is doing great in other areas so we wont. We did stop taking her for a week or so, but she made NO EFFORT to use the bathroom the entire time. When we talk to her, she says she wants to potty like Sam.

The day hab center has been very patient and has changed her, only to watch her wet and fill her pants, again and again. They have told us that if it keeps up she will have to wear diapers or pull ups while shes there.

I also spoke with Sam's mother who has attempted to potty train Sam numerous times with no results. She says Sam doesn't mind being in diapers (wet or soiled) and has never shown any interest in using the restroom. So Sam will not be using the toilet any time soon.

It seems cruel to take her away from the friends, she loves to be with (If this will even solve the problem), but should we just put her back in diapers? It looks like diapers may be the solution if she wont stop, we cant have a 21 year old wetting and filing her pants everywhere she goes.

We will try any good ideas. What would you do?


Well-Known Member
I have no clue... When my son was in grade school he had accidents while sleeping. We tried not to make a big deal of it, but did make him learn how to strip his bed, wash and dry the sheets and make the bed.

My suggestion is, if you can handle it, take her to the day hab. If she souls herself, have them contact you, take her home for the rest of the day. Have her shower, get dressed, then do the laundry.

I think I would try to turn this in to a big inconvenience her her. But I know it will also impact you, too.



Well-Known Member
I like KSM's suggestion a lot.

There are professional behavioral specialists that do behavioral analysis. They observe behaviors and then develop a behavioral modification plan which they initiate and they train family members and school and other settings to implement it.

Is Tina Regional Center qualified? If so, they should pay for this, I would think.

I don't see your daughter's age. Depending upon her age, her IEP might still be in effect. If so, there might be some help available this way.

The reason I think ksms approach is good, is that it does not positively reinforce her behavior. It causes her to experience an adverse consequence, needing to leave the environment she seeks. But the thing is she may get mad, and this could backfire. That's why I would involve a professional if there's a way to do so.

Another way behavioral modification works is through positive rewards, of desired behavior. But the thing is your daughter seeks the approval and company of Sam, who she seeks to be like. Maybe there would be a way that a professional could work with both Sam and your daughter, and their families could share costs?

I wish I knew what to tell you, but I'm stymied.

Welcome. I am happy for you and Tina that she is flourishing in this environment, despite this frustrating behavior. I think you will solve this. I hope you let us know what works, when you do. Take care.
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Well-Known Member
Hi and welcome, James

Have you talked to your daughter about how selfish it is to make the Day Hab employees take time away from their other duties/other clients (or a much-needed break) to change her when she can go potty for herself?

Maybe talk to her about her responsibilities to be a role model to Sam and some of the other attendees in the ways that she can? That she is a leader, not a follower?

To think of others and not just herself?

I hope you can get this problem solved!
Good luck!
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Roll With It
I like the idea of a behavioral assessment and professional help for this. I do wish they made undies with characters on them for adults. I used the idea of "not peeing/pooping on Barney" to help my kids have incentive to use the potty. It was highly effective. Does she like girly things? Maybe getting some fancy underwear for her and letting her earn them by keeping herself clean/dry would help. If she is in diapers at any point in the day, she cannot have the fancy/lacy/colorful/whatever underwear, but if she stays clean/dry, she gets to wear them as long as she does not soil them.

I also would be taking her to the restroom every 2 hours or so and insisting she try to use it each time. If she is going to soil/wet her pants, she is going to have to have help in the restroom and she has to go each time the timer goes off. Set the timer for however long. WHen it goes off, she has to stop whatever she is doing and go to the potty. If she uses the toilet, she gets a small reward and a chance for her fancy new undies. If she uses her pants instead of the toilet, she has to clean herself up (even if she is in diapers - she has to deal with them and cleaning herself) and do her laundry BEFORE she can go back to her friends. If her friends are watching a movie or playing a game, she misses turns or part of the movie and everyone else gets to go ahead but she does not. This gives her positive rewards for using the toilet, helps train her body to use it every so many hours (2 is a suggestion), and there are negative consequences for not using the toilet. Of course, it is all the timer's fault that she has to stop everything and go deal with this. And of course she does not have to sit in her soiled clothing until the timer. She has to stop right then and go clean up because she CHOSE to soil herself.

I am sorry that you have to deal with this. I know it isn't fun and must be infuriating and frustrating.


New Member
Yes, we have consulted with her clination, she thinks it may be part of a sensory/comfort issue as well as seeing her friends wearing and using diapers. It makes it socially acceptable for her. (Sam and another friend also wear diapers)
We have talked to her (several times) about how childish and irresponsible it is to wet and fill her pants, and how it will negatively effect her life. And how she should be a role model for her friends not a copy cat.

She says she will try to use the bathroom, but her pants are wet or soiled before we know it.

No, we cant drive her home due to my wife's new job and work hours. Or consistently take her to the bathroom, she knows how to use the bathroom and is just choosing her pants. We spent two years (and several attempts) to potty training her back when she was 9 -11 and were DONE with THAT!

My wife and I really have no other option right now. We bought her some adult underwear (pullups) and she has been wearing those for the last two days.

When we told her, she would have to wear "protective underpants" she just said "ok". Once my wife put the adult pullups on her she was Exsactic. Our daughter kept flapping her hands in front of her and said diapers, diapers! I have not seen her this excited in years. SIGH :crying:

Were having her CHANGE HERSELF at home and
We also told the day hab workers that she is to be as INDEPENDENT as possible and change herself. So far she has not had a problem with doing the changes.

As much as we hate to admit it our daughter is at a very low level of maturity even though shes now 21. She mostly behaves like a 3 or 4 year old. She has never really had any friends that she has been interested in seeing or doing anything with. Shes now talking about her friends and doing fun activities with them that she would never had tried, had she been here at home. So for now we would rather see her with her friends developing her skills and enjoying life, while wearing diapers. Than sitting around the house wasting her time like she has been doing for years.

Hopefully this is just a long phase that she will grow out of. Thank you for your help and advise. Any new ideas would be welcome.


Roll With It
I know this is frustrating, but I applaud your decision to let her wear the diapers. She has the opportunity to grow and learn from being with her friends. That opportunity is precious and rare. Taking advantage of it and letting the diaper thing not be an issues is a wonderful thing. It shows how much you truly love her, that you put what is best for her above the need to stop something that is unpleasant for you. You are really great parents.

James Rohan

New Member
Update 2 years later. We met Sam and her family and had many play dates. They play together with toddler toys at each others houses like big happy two year olds. We don't use pull ups on Tina anymore since they were leaking both pee and poop. (Tina wasn't making an effort to pull them up or down anyway) We switched to full adult briefs (Diapers) with tabs like Sam wears. Sam has never made any effort to use the bathroom and just wets or fills her diaper just like a toddler wherever she is at (Home, Day Hab, The Store, our house, etc.) Sam is not the least embarrassed about wearing diapers at all. Tina has continued to do the same. We know that she is fully capable but truly wants to live like a two year old in diapers. Sams parents were right there with us and our frustration level. They tried 7 long times to get Sam to use the toilet before just giving up. My wife and I stopped being frustrated and upset and are both happy our daughter is happy. Even if shes acting like a baby. In the long long run we will have to get Tina into a group home that will help change her diapers.


Well-Known Member
This was an interesting thread. I read it all since I didn't remember it. I am so glad you updated here.

in my opinion you are all winning in every way. Your daughter is different and often we think of different as not okay. But it's FINE if she is happy. That's the main thing and she sounds content as she is. And you seem awesome in your acceptance of her. Acceptance is what helps us be able to genuinely smile, even when our lives don't tic each box for appropriate social norms. Most people probably can't tic each box for appropriate social norms anyway. What is normal?

You are amazing parents to a happy child who is able to just be who she is. Kudos to all!!!