Potty training a normal, healthy child can propel any parent into a state of anxiety, overwhelm and exhaustion. Now let's consider what potty training is like for a parent when their child is on the Autism spectrum? A child with Autism may have sensory issues that get in the way or they may not even understand what it means to use the potty.
Here are some things to consider when potty training a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to reduce the number of bathroom battles you encounter.
• Determine if your child is ready to be potty trained. Just because all the books say readiness occurs between the ages of 18 months to 4 years for a neuro-typical child it does not mean your child with Autism has the ability to do so. A developmental delay can carry over into many areas and postpone readiness. Does your child know when he is wet or has a dirty diaper? Does your daughter have a dry diaper all night?
• Find out what your child's elimination schedule is. It does not take long to do this. Keep notes on when your child's diaper is soiled or wet? Notice the time it takes your child to eliminate after he eats or drinks. Keeping a journal for three to five days will determine a pattern. Then you will know the times to focus on potty training the most.
• Do not punish the child for accidents. If your child has an accident remind them that is what the potty is for. Calmly clean up the mess with your child's assistance, even if on a limited basis. Make sure everyone caring for your child uses the same approach as well. Mixed messages will not help.
• Does your child have the skills to undress and redress? If not this can make potty training more challenging unless you have the luxury to let your child run around naked for the next month or two. You will also need to make time for wiping up puddles and scrubbing carpets and upholstery.
• Do not give up - remain consistent. If your child does not catch on right away do not give up. It takes a few weeks for a new skill to be learned. If you keep switching from diapers to the potty this will just confuse your child even more. Consistency is the key factor when potty training. This goes for any child not just children with Autism.
• Make the potty and your bathroom user friendly. Eliminating any source of stress or anxiety will help your child relax about potty training. Let your child see the potty and get familiar with it before they are made to sit there. Consider writing a social story about the potty chair and what it is used for. This will help them become comfortable with the idea.
Remember children with Autism are more likely to take longer to learn a new skill so be patient and stay relaxed. If your child senses tension you may be in for more battles than you bargain for. To increase you chances for potty training success you want to make sure you eliminate as much of your child's anxiety as possible.
Connie Hammer, MSW, parent educator, consultant and coach, guides parents of young children recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder to uncover abilities and change possibilities. Visit her website http://www.parentcoachingforautism.com to get your FREE resources - a parenting e-course, Parenting a Child with Autism - 3 Secrets to Thrive and a weekly parenting tip newsletter, The Spectrum.
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