Working in a preschool, I get asked many times by the families that I work with about how to potty train their child. I work with students on the Autism Spectrum, so you may think that there are extra steps or different techniques for training children on the spectrum. However, the tips I give parents of kids on the Autism Spectrum are the same that I used with my own neuro-typical kids. First, is the make sure that your child is ready, otherwise there’s no point in moving ahead. Signs that your child is ready include: discomfort with soiled or wet diaper, “hides” to go potty, shows interest in toilets and/or wearing underwear, stays dry for 2 hrs or longer periods, wakes from naps with dry diaper, and can pull pants up/down.
Here are the potty training steps that I used with my own kids:
Step 1: Start letting your little one observe the whole process of you using the toilet, including pulling pants down, sitting on toilet, wiping, pulling up pants, and washing hands. I know this one may weird out some people, but kids learn fastest from modeling and direct instruction vs showing pictures and describing the process.
Step 2: Start having your toddler sit on the toilet. Using a small potty chair or putting a smaller sized seat on the regular toilet will work, but make sure the little ones feet are securely on a flat surface (either floor or step stool). Here’s an example of a potty chair and a potty seat. (affiliate links)
Step 3: Change your child’s diaper in the bathroom instead of in their room on changing table or pad. This begins to help your child learn and associate that potty business is taken care of in the bathroom. I know it’ll seem awkward changing poopy diapers or pull ups in the bathroom, but you’ll be teaching your child to wipe their bottom with toilet training anyways, so this a good time to start toilet hygiene while standing. Plus, this step is important for the next couple of steps….
Step 4: Start emptying their soiled diapers in the toilet. Make sure your child sees this so that he/she learns that poop belongs in the toilet.
Step 5: Lastly, let them flush the toilet. Whether you just emptied a soiled diaper into the toilet, or you let your child observe you using the toilet, let them flush the toilet and make a point to say “bye bye” as the toilet flushes. This helps alleviate fear of the toilet sound flushing or the uncertainty to what flushing actually means. By exposing your child to the act of flushing and making it fun by saying goodbye, your child will be more comfortable with this aspect of toileting that can be fear-inducing to some children.
Now, there are many different techniques and methodologies for potty training. You can train your child over a weekend or it could take a few months. No matter which technique you choose to use, consistency is key!! For instance consider holding off on potty training if you know that you can’t fully commit to it due to vacations/traveling or life changes, such as the birth of a new sibling or moving. Just think…you can’t quit once you commit!
Here are several more tips to help you implement “operation potty training” when you are ready to commit.
Tip 1: Take note of your child’s bathroom schedule. Does your child go poops during certain times of the day?
Tip 2: Most children have bowel movements once a day. If your child is pretty regular, he/she may have a bowel movement about an hour after eating a meal. Most children urinate within an hour of drinking a large amount of liquids. This tip is one of the most considered tip for those “booty camp” or weekend potty training methods.
Tip 3: Use visuals and rewards as needed. The potty visual for this post is one that is used at my preschool to structure the potty process. This is very helpful for my students on the Autism Spectrum. However, it can be a very useful tool for other neuro-typical children as well. A reward chart can be helpful not only as an incentive for successful use of the potty, but for use as data for parents to show whether or not your child is ready for potty training or if you should revisit potty training for another time.
Tip 4: Praise your child with any positive steps, including pull pants up/down, sitting on the potty, voiding on the toilet, wiping, and handwashing. Do not express disappointment if a potty session was unsuccessful.
Tip 5: Teach boys to urinate sitting down first until they are able to control their bladder better. Then, you can move your son to standing up and learning to aim properly into the toilet.
Tip 6: For girls who have a hard time wiping after a bowel movement by reaching around the back, teach to wipe from front to back to keep bacteria from the rectum from coming in contact with vagina or urethra to prevent UTIs.
I hope these potty training steps and tips were helpful for you as begin the potty training journey. It can be a stressful period, but it doesn’t have to be if you and your little is prepared. Please comment with any extra tips or questions you may have. And, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram or on my Facebook page @otkatieyoon for more tips and info on child development, pediatric occupational therapy, and my life shenanigans.