Toilet training during your time at home in isolation 💩

Toilet training on your own for a month is not what parents want to hear. This month, while we are practicing social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) should be used to continue the toilet training schedules that our teachers put in place for the children during term 1 at Amazing K.

Toilet training a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a little more challenging than toilet training a typically developing child.  Many reasons have been documented for this and these can include but are not limited to:

  • Children with autism are often very attached to their routines and they find it difficult to stop doing what they are doing in order to go to the bathroom. This is also the reason why accidents often happen – even after the child is successfully toilet trained.
  • Sensory challenges can extend from the noise of a flushing toilet to the sensation of sitting on the potty.
  • Physical or medical reasons like constipation can make toilet training a challenge.
  • Non-verbal children have trouble “asking to use the toilet”.
  • Motor Planning difficulties make pulling pants up or down difficult and this causes problems with “independence”.
  • Difficulties with “generalisation” meaning that the child does not understand that toilet and bathroom can look different but still have the same purpose.

One of the biggest mistakes parents make:  “they tend not to follow through during holiday period and/or weekends” and this confuses the child. 

Autistic children are very routine driven and all the children that are still in nappies are currently being trained at school.  Successful toilet training in autism means consistency between school and home.

Here are our toilet training tips for this unexpectedly long holiday:

  • Set a goal to take your child to the toilet at least 6 – 8 times a day.
  • Every sit session during the day needs to be a “little longer” so the 1st time will be a quick on- and-off session that may last 5-10 seconds.
  • Gradually increase the time the child sits on the toilet so that they can become comfortable with the idea of sitting on the loo.
  • Waiting for your child to “show or tell” you that they need to go to the loo is pointless. You have to take the lead on this.  Plan toilet rips around your usual routine and make sure you have the same routine daily.  What this basically means is if you take the child to the loo just after they have woken up – then do it every day.  Same will go for before meals or after.  Keep a routine at all time particularly in the early days.
  • Use a picture (PECS) or the Makaton sign for “toilet” each time you take the child to the bathroom. This will help particularly the non-verbal children eventually use the signs to communicate their need to go to the bathroom.
  • Make sure that you give lots of praise – not just for the actual “event” but also for sitting and participating.
  • Stay calm. Don’t get frustrated and don’t make any fuss if an accident happens.  This is the time to be supportive.
  • Use only “supportive language” and make the bathroom a “happy” and non-scary place for the child.
  • Books can be read; visual stories can be implemented, and you can even learn a toilet song that you sing with or to your child.

Most importantly – keep it consistent.  Make sure that everybody is on the same page, keep using the same signs or pictures and words, stay consistent, be positive, praise for trying and avoid any negativity around your child’s “toileting” habits!

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.