Potty Training on the Spectrum

When the time came to potty train my little man, I was sure that I was ready. I had already potty trained my oldest, in three days. Of course I could handle doing it with my special needs child! That's a BIG NOPE!

Let me start this post by reminding everyone that ALL children are different. Children on the autism spectrum experience things differently from their “typical” peers, and also from other children on the spectrum. Some things work for some children, while they may not work for others. This is why I WILL NOT make this a motherly tutorial, portraying myself as an expert. I am only an expert with my child, and I’ll stick to that.

When the time came to potty train my little man, I was sure that I was ready. I had already potty trained my oldest, in three days. Of course I could handle doing it with my special needs child! That’s a BIG NOPE!

I attempted to potty train him at two years, and failed. He screamed for his diapers, for HOURS. He sat on the potty chair ONE TIME and had a meltdown. I’m guessing because it sang a song and startled him, but I can’t really say for sure. He was still non-verbal at the time.

I tried again at two and a half, and cleaned up “potty messes” for a week straight. He absolutely refused to sit on his potty chair. I had failed, again. There may have been a few more attempts after that. Shhhhhhh, that will be our secret.

Then, his teacher started a potty training program for his preschool class, just after his fourth birthday. This woman was BRAVE! I don’t know how she and two assistants handled so many children. I was expecting him to bring home bags and bags of wet clothes, but he only had a few “accidents” while at school.

I couldn’t let his teacher show me up, haha!

It was while he was at home that was the challenge. He didn’t want to leave his favorite activities to use the potty chair, and he refused to even touch his tiny tushy to the toilet seat. I cleaned puddle after puddle, every day. I couldn’t understand how he stayed dry all day, until he came home. Finally, it clicked! It wasn’t that he couldn’t, but that it had to be on HIS TERMS.

But how do you potty train a child without taking them to the bathroom at regular intervals?! Instead of placing “mands” on him, I took a more passive role. I had to, I couldn’t let his teacher show me up, haha! I put his potty chair in the play room and occasionally mentioned that there was a potty chair nearby, if he needed it. Next thing I knew, he went! We had a tremendous celebration, including a dance party and fruit snacks as reinforcement.

Soon, he would use that potty chair every time he had to go. He would even carry it from room to room, never leaving it far behind. It was then that I had created a “crutch” for him, one that I’d have to find a way to put an end to. The battle for the potty chair ensued. He spent HOURS each night demanding it. At one point, he even threatened “Give me potty NOW or I pee pee on the floor!”

This little guy was VERY self directed and I had fed the fire by taking a passive role. While victory was mine. In the long term, he had won. It took months to fix this dynamic as it applied to potty training. I had to stick to it and refuse to give in to his potty chair demands. That should be easy, right? NOPE!

“Give me potty NOW or I pee pee on the floor!”

He’s an extremely bright child and would manipulate situations. When he would see me busy doing things around the house, he’d demand his potty chair. And when I say demanding, I mean full meltdown, for hours. He knew that I was more likely to give in if I wasn’t able to take the time to focus on correcting the negative behaviors.

After years of attempts, I can now say that he is 100% potty trained! I may not have done it the “right way”, but I did it the right way for my child.

Share your potty training stories in the comments below! I love to hear the good, bad and ugly.

P.S. If you hear my child asking for gifts after going #2 we’ll keep that between us hahaha.

Xoxo

Nikki

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