potty training with autism???????


New Member
Can anyone give us any tips on trying to get our son to use the potty. We try and try, but it seems to upset him, and now he's almost too big for diapers. :crying:

Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful
The only thing that worked for me was being more stubborn than T. (and I am :wink: )

Being consistant was always the key with T for everything. I used positive reinforcement as much as possible. If he went in his pants I'd say, "Ewwww yukky." or "That's disgusting." and explain that only baby's potty in their pants cuz they're too little to use the potty. (also used this with grandson who was having trouble being consistant with pottying in the toilet) But when making comments I was careful they weren't directed at the child.

Have you had him checked over by the pediatrician doctor to make sure there is no physical reason he's having trouble? T had sphinctor muscle issues and sensory issues that made him not realize he had to go til he dribbled a bit in his pants. Then it was the mad dash to the bathroom.

Might just try putting him in undies around the house now that it's getting warmer. Pull ups can be great except for some kids they need the soiled feeling to prompt them to want to use the potty.

I'd just keep taking him and try to be patient. Some kids catch on later than others.



New Member
My son is almost 3 and we have had this very discussion with his therapist. They suggested a "potty party" It is not so much of a party. It is a really intense weekend where most of it is spent in the bathroom. It is rigid schedules of getting them in the habit of sitting on the potty. I dont know the exact details but it is based upont he book potty training in a day. Basically in the days and weeks after the "party" you put your child on the potty every 30 minutes. They mostly work with Autistic children and they say that on the most part it works in the sense that it gets them going on the potty regularly.I can try and get the exact book title tomorrow from his therapist. I hope this helps a bit.


Former desparate mom
It's just my personal opinion but I don't believe kids on the autistic spectrum get that the urge means go to the bathroom. They almost have a disconnect from the urge to the action These kids have developmental delays. It makes sense that they will potty a little later than average.
I would talk to your autistic specialist about a plan.

I didn't have much luck. We went through a lot of pants and just had to wait until he matured. We tried almost everything we could think of, everything we read and everything a professional recommended. It was a night mare for us but looking back I would probably accept that he was going to be delayed and stop working so hard on making him develop close to what his peers were doing at this age.

You have my sympathies. I know how heartbreaking, frustrating and worrisome it is.


Active Member
We had no real luck with difficult child 3 before he was 3, with bowels. We ended up using bribes. He was in child care at the time, and the carer did a lot to help him here.

But he was very slow to learn and it turned out to be a sensory delay issue. He simply didn't recognise his body signal. I was still being called to the pre-school and later the school to clean him up. He started school at 5.

So, what worked for us - for bowel training, we stuck a small box of M&Ms to the wall above the toilet. They were for difficult child 3 when he first used the toilet. We never bothered with the potty - we just went straight to the big toilet, with a junior seat. However, we found the junior seat was a problem so we dispensed with that as soon as we could.

It took a while but regularly putting him on the toilet after each meal for five minutes eventually paid off - it was pure chance, but he earned his reward. We stuck up another box.

After he was earning a box a day, we changed the rules - no daily reward, but he would get a BIG box for going a whole week with no dirty pants.

We didn't use shame in any way if he made a mistake - we just showed him how to clean up, helped him with it and began the week over. Too many mistakes making a week out of reach - we went back to a small box for going a day with clean pants. And so on.

You do what you feel you need to. You sound like you're going through similar problems to our difficult child 1 - he was phobic about the potty and the toilet. at three, he would refuse to use t he toilet OR the potty, but he also was trying to keep his nappy clean. He just didn't understand that it had to go SOMEWHERE! It took a screaming match once a week with his grandfather, who was the only person who could "bully the sh*t out of" difficult child 1. Literally. It took about six weeks of this, on a weekly basis, for difficult child 1 to work out that this was going to be a continuing problem and he may as well embrace toilet training and accept the inevitable.

difficult child 3 wasn't phobic, just unaware. When he was seven he was toilet trained during the day, but we had wet nappies every night. We tried getting him up to the toilet as we were going to bed ("come on, honey, it's toilet time") but it was only pure chance if we kept him dry. We finally took him to a specialist in bedwetting in autistic kids. We were organising a pad and bell system but had some exercises to go through first, which involved putting him in pants and being prepared to change the sheets several times a night. We had charts as well.

Then we discovered - putting difficult child 3 in pants had been the trick. We did it in summer which is always the best time for practical and physiological reasons, but the nappies (good disposable ones) had been TOO efficient, they hadn't let him feel that he was wet, so he was not getting the necessary biofeedback (bladder feels full; void bladder; feel wet; uh-oh, should have gone to the toilet). The pants at night did the trick for him.

With difficult child 1's extreme potty phobia - we used bribes again. He wouldn't sit on the potty bare-bottomed even for a bribe, so I bribed him to sit on it fully clothed. His rear end brushed the potty fleetingly and he demanded his reward. OK, he had earned it - just. But I kept upping the ante - he now had to sit on it with a bare behind. Then he had to sit for thirty seconds. Then he had to sit for a minute. Then he had to sit long enough to produce something. He would 'perform' with bladder, but that was it. He learned fast and had dry nappies from then on, but as I said, the bowel training was the worst.

Now I must emphasise - my boys were not being disobedient - they simply couldn't help it. They had poor connection between body signal and physical function. Then it was a matter of understanding and learning to cope with life - not easy, with autism.

A classic example that had us in stitches at the time - difficult child 3 was school-aged. He WAS bladder-trained at night, so he must have been at least seven years old. He got up in the morning and went to the toilet (always hits the door sounding like a SWAT team raid). We heard him voiding a healthy bladderful, and then we heard him exclaim in annoyance, "EVERY MORNING there's wee!"
He'd been hoping that needing to empty his bladder (and everything else) was something he would grow out of and never need to do again. He was waiting for the morning when there would be no urge to go, no need any more ever to use the toilet.

He was most indignant when we laughed, and very despondent when we explained.

So not only do our boys FEEL differently, they also think very differently. It can be frustrating, but it can also make life very lively. And DO make sure you write down any such things because you DO forget, even when you think it's unforgettable.

Oh, and I almost forgot - he need never be too big for nappies. They come in adult sizes, or at least the disposable ones do. And I do know that you can get hold of cloth ones as well, I have a quadriplegic friend who has now lost bladder & bowel control, she'd had some de luxe ones made for her so she can be out all day and only need changing when she comes home at night. She gets help to get washed and dressed, they then help her into the car and she spends the day driving around visiting friends (the car uses hand controls). She's almost illiterate but she's written a book (which I edited and helped publish) and she's now working on a second, if only she would stay home occasionally and get more writing done!

She is a classic example of how if you think outside the square you can have an active, happy and interesting life.



Active Member
Yep. You can try a social story, but if there simply isn't that physical recognition when the body says. "It's time to go," then even a social story will have limited success only. Finding the underlying problem first can help you know which way to go, including with your social story.



easy child was out of diapers by 2 1/2, except for bowels. He would come and let me know he needed a diaper when he needed to move his bowels, so I knew he recognized the urge. It turns out he was afraid to go in the potty, which I have since heard is not uncommon for boys. Under the advice of our (then) pediatrician when easy child was almost 4, we had a party and threw away all diapers and made a big deal of it. easy child didn't move his bowels for almost 3 days. He was just so afraid. :sad: He finally went and it's been ok since, but in hindsight I would have handled it differently.

I'm with Fran on this.


New Member
Four is not usually late for potty training a kid on the autism spectrum. We started trying when my son turned three, but he didn't have full success with all aspects of it until he was 5. In retrospect, I kind of wish we had waited until he was 4 to start. Anyway, what worked for us was visual cues and rewards. We had a chart in the bathroom, and stars were earned for every success. A certain number of stars would earn a reward. Also, a set of written reminders of all of the steps seemed to help. I think we kind of take for granted some things that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids don't. For example, it was important to remind my son that the pants come down AFTER he is in the bathroom, etc. (For him, we used written lists, since he is hyperlexic. But the same type of thing could be done with a picture schedule for kids that don't read.)

Best of luck!


New Member
My difficult child who is being tested for various disorders including autism did not even want to potty train until he was 4 years old. He was TERRIFIED of toilets outside of our home until he was 6 years old and would frequently have accidents outside of home as a result...including at school. He did eventually overcome his fear of the toilet and the sounds it makes and the accidents subsided when he went into 1st grade. He does occasionally still have accidents at 9 years old, but usually they are because he is too engrossed in what he is doing to go in time. I would not be overly worried and just do your best, it is a pain and I NEVER thought I would EVER get him out of diapers and pull ups, but we did it! I am sure your difficult child will too in time.

All the best!!


Well-Known Member
I work with 2 5 year old autistic boys who are not potty trained. Here is what we do. First put him on a schedule -every half hour take him in there, (do not speak at all other than to say ,"Good job" when he goes,or pulls upo his pants, or anything he needs to do).Go through his bathroom routine hand over hand. Let him do it. Let him just sit on the toilet. When he goes give him an immediate reward.(our guys like to watch the water when they flush-that's their reward). Silently guide them to the faucet, turn on, then off, get paper towel,etc.... but the hand over hand --slowly fade that out to just guiding him slightly.The talking gets in the way of the learning. Keep that to a minimum. If he cries in there, ignore it- soon he will get used to going in there, and doing everything. Be patient. I know it is heartbreaking when he cries.-He has to learn this.-Alyssa


New Member
Yes, toilet training was ........interesting with my difficult child son-and we still deal with holding issues to this day.....
We did similar to Marguaret-we stuck hot wheel cars up by the toilet and for every bm he got one.....but I had no idea then he was Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)-or I woulndt have put so much pressure on him-I would have waited too until he was older. We went through the whole duck tape deal as he was smearing. We tried everything-hot wheels worked best for him though...
My son hates the sound of the flush and refuses to go at school-he thinks they are all going to overflow-but especially at school as he has seen them do it...I used to have to flush for him, but he will do it now-as he is running away-LOLOL.
Its been a VERY long road with him and we still have issues.....
I also know how frustrating this is!!! difficult child 2 is 15 years old and still has to be reminded to use the bathroom. I told him to schedule a time at school and use the bathroom every day at that same time. I had him mark the time on the school schedule he keeps inside one of his notebooks.

You've already been given great advice. I just want to let you know that I'm thinking of you... You are definitely not alone!!! I understand how difficult this process can be with difficult children!!! WFEN


New Member
hi.my 4 well he will be is just starting to use the potty.he has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified.but i still keep pull ups on him.i did find out if you get a note from his dochter that he still need diapers or pullups because of a disability most insurance comp.will cover the cost.i get 8 packs of pull up for mine once a month.i hope everything works out.