In starting to introduce potty training to the child with autism or special needs, it’s important to understand that many times the child with autism or special needs can be potty trained, verbal or not! There are some very distinct signs that the child with autism or special needs is ready to be potty trained no matter what his/her age might be. These signs are the same signs that a typical child demonstrates but at a later age. Some of these signs include taking clothes and a diaper/pull up off and everything that comes with having a diaper off the body. Make sure not to start backwards starting with getting underwear. First create interest in potty training by bringing up the subject in various forms, such as in books, videos and every day conversation. I recommend getting the “Potty Power” DVD which can be found on amazon.com for a great price!
For those children who are minimal verbal or nonverbal I also recommend using the “Signing Time! Potty Time!” video as well, which is a great supplement. The song “Stop and Go!” reminds children to stop what they are doing when they have to go potty and go. You can find the “Potty Time!” DVD on www.signingtime.com (or digital download is also available and can be played on any desktop or Apple iOS ((ie iPad, iPhone, iPod etc.))
Play these videos for the kids until they get interested in potty training and show some signs by sitting on the potty, saying potty, and/or watching others in the family go potty. And then when they are ready, start taking the kids every 30 minutes to sit on the potty with their clothes and diaper on and just for a minute or so. Then once they are comfortable with that, then have a “potty day” where a whole or half day is set aside to hang out in the bathroom.
On “potty day” (adapted from the book “Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day” by Teri Crane) the child stays seated on the potty until he/she goes and then a short break to drink his/her favorite drink, play with a favorite toy and maybe a snack, and then right back on the potty until success again! And then another short break and back on the potty. Sometimes a potty doll is helpful in helping the kids understand the potty concept. Ms. Crane gives a ton more suggestions and feel free to do what works and skip what doesn’t work for your child.
After “potty day” then its underwear time and take the child to the bathroom every 30 minutes consistently until he/she starts saying potty or going on their own. When running errands or traveling, take the child to the potty right before getting in the car and then again at arrival at the destination, every 30 minutes during the outing and then again right before leaving. At times using a diaper or pull-up for naps and night time is needed but every child is different so just pay attention to the child’s needs and go from there.
It does take a lot of time and patience, at times even years before the child with autism or special needs is completely potty trained but it is worth the effort to have the child with autism or special needs, know and honestly be able to say “I’ve got Potty Power!” (from the “Potty Power” video).