Tackling Toilet Training with Nonverbal Kids

Toilet training is a challenging time for any parent, but the challenges can be exacerbated if you have a nonverbal child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Children with ASD tend to resist changes to their routine, and they may have trouble learning new physical skills. Not to worry, though! All it takes is patience and a little know-how. Here are some toilet training tips for nonverbal children:  

Use visual aids.  

As you may already know, many children who have ASD learn more effectively from visual prompts, such as pictures, than they do from verbal instructions. You might try drawing a series of simple pictures to guide your child through the process of going to the toilet, using it, wiping, flushing, and handwashing. Being able to see this process will help many children remember it.  

Be consistent. 

Create a routine around using the bathroom.  Incorporate fun and predictable experience for your child when going to the bathroom (i.e., singing a particular song, transitioning with a particular object to the bathroom, and cueing your child before going to the bathroom). In addition to using visual supports to review the necessary steps to complete the bathroom routine, use the same language when transitioning to the bathroom in order to create predictability in their daily environment.   

Don’t focus on accidents.  

It’s only natural that your child will have accidents during the toilet training process. When that happens, don’t call attention to it. Making a fuss about every accident may confuse your child since it can be difficult for some children with ASD to firmly distinguish between positive attention and negative attention. Rather than inadvertently reinforcing the behavior, simply clean up the mess and remind your child to use the toilet.   

Give small rewards.  

When your child goes through the process of using the toilet with no mistakes or accidents, you might try rewarding them with something like a treat or a small toy. These rewards will be helpful for reinforcing desired behavior, and they will associate the successful use of the toilet with positive emotions in your child’s mind. 

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