ABA therapy

Fort Myers ABA Therapy Helps Target Toilet Training

Learning how to use the toilet is a pivotal skill for every child, and one’s “readiness” can widely vary. ABA therapy can help children with autism and other delays master the potty with positive reinforcement.

Toilet training is all too often a frustrating and sometimes tearful experience for many families and children. Parents understand it’s a critical milestone that allows their child to participate in so many activities with reduced risk of negative consequences like as social stigma, poor personal hygiene and discomfort.

Recognize that many typically-developing children struggle with this. A child with autism spectrum disorder is going to have even more difficulties due to challenges with language and communication, sensory processing, motor planning, social skills/ social thinking and behavioral control. It will take more time – and that’s Ok. But with a solid, consistent plan, it will happen. 

ABA therapy can help make the potty training process more manageable at home by providing one-on-one reinforcement throughout the day.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 requires school districts to teach skills beyond the scope of straightforward academic goals, and incorporate help with functional life skills too. That includes potty training. However, the reality is potty training for children with autism in a public school setting is often ineffective due to limited resources that limit one-on-one consistency. When ABA therapists work several hours a day with the child and help develop a plan for carry over at home, the approach is often much more successful.

It’s necessary first to set aside the comparisons. While researchers say 98 percent of typically-developing children are ready by their third birthday, whatever timeline or methods worked to potty train your other children, your nieces and nephews or your friend’s children may not work for a child with autism. In fact, what worked for another child with autism may not work at all for your child. Some things to keep in mind:

  • A child with autism is likely to take longer to show interest or display indications of readiness.
  • Children with autism may have anxiety or fear about using the toilet, which could be displayed through problem behaviors.
  • Visual schedules can help remind children of the steps necessary for using the bathroom.
  • Children may need to learn “No. 2.” separately and later than they learned “No. 1.”
  • Some children may struggle with use of “unknown toilets,” such as public restrooms.

It’s important also before we start working on this skill in ABA therapy that a pediatrician rules out the possibility of medical issues being a catalyst for bowel training trouble. If a child has chronic constipation or diarrhea or intestinal issues, those must be addressed first.

While this is understandably a messy and frustrating process, “punishing” the child for their “choice” not to use the potty may often only compounds a child’s confusion and anger and can further delay the process. As noted by Autism Speaks, toileting training goals should be realistic.

ABA therapists at FOCUS are committed to:

  • Devoting time specifically and only to potty training, eliminating distractions and interruptions.
  • Establishing a plan and a process that is pleasant for people involved – no punishments or unnecessary conflicts, with heavy focus on praise and rewards for appropriate actions.
  • Staying consistent.
  • Helping parents develop a realistic plan to maintain that consistency at home.

We recognize it may not be a quick process, but by tailoring a toilet plan that meets your child’s needs and sticking with it, ABA therapy can help make potty training a success.

FOCUS offers ABA therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Toilet Training Children With Autism and Developmental Delays: An Effective Program for School Settings, 2012, Behavior Analysis in Practice

More Blog Entries:

Study: Kids With ADHD Thrive With Positive Reinforcement, Dec. 15, 2017, Fort Myers ABA Therapy Blog

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