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  • Writer's pictureSparkle Allen Hoston

Potty Training a Child with Autism: My Experience + 5 Helpful Tips

Updated: Apr 30

Potty Training DJ

I remember when it was time to potty train DJ- I was excited yet very anxious and unsure of how to go about things. DJ had just made 2-years-old and my mother was stern on him being trained sooner than later. Though my husband was present, I leaned on my mother for support. At the time, DJ was an only child and De'Unte Sr. and I were still fairly new to parenting. The thought of our son being autistic was nonexistent.

DJ developed a habit of taking off his diaper and urinating or defecating where he pleased- usually in the bedroom he, my husband, and I shared. De'Unte Sr. and I would often find ourselves stepping on soiled carpet or smelling feces without immediately seeing it. We’d search around our bedroom looking for DJ’s droppings using our noses and flashlights on our cellphones. I imagined this being like some sort of game, jokingly calling it “Find the Poop”.

My mother was certain that this was a sign of DJ needing to be potty trained and she suggested that I spank DJ to help him understand that relieving himself in the bedroom was inappropriate. And so, I did what my mother told me to do, quickly realizing that spanking my son only made him fearful of me and didn’t do much to help him break his habit. A short time later, I bought DJ a potty.

DJ loves cars- a trait he picked up from his father- and so I bought him a Racer Potty System hoping that he’d use it to relieve himself. De'Unte Sr. and I would sit DJ on the potty randomly throughout the day, but his progress was stagnant. One day I noticed him trying to sit on the toilet in our bathroom, mimicking what he saw me and his father do. I decided to purchase DJ a Summer My Size Potty, one that looked like an actual toilet and made a flushing sound when using the handle. Later during a trip to the store, DJ picked out a potty training toilet seat with images of characters from his favorite TV show- PawPatrol.

Aside from the two potties and toilet seat, I bought DJ training pants and regular underwear. I’d have DJ wear the underwear throughout the day and the training pants during outings and throughout the night. DJ would often relieve himself while sleeping and would soil his bed, causing me to change his bedsheets several times a month. I eventually developed a routine of having him go to the potty before his bedtime. Later, DJ's routine included potty training at specific times every day.

DJ became fully potty trained at the age of 4, though he still needs help with wiping himself and putting on his bottoms from time to time.

5 Tips on Potty Training a Child with Autism

Here's 3-year-old DJ potty training.

Potty training is a process- one that requires time, patience, and consistency especially when training a child who is on the spectrum. Here are 5 things I learned and found helpful while training DJ:

#1 Have a Routine and Stick with It!

Having a schedule or routine for children who are autistic is very important because it helps them to know what to expect and it provides structure and sameness. Have your child go to the potty several times throughout the day or about every 4 hours. Also, keep the potty in the same location- preferably the bathroom. This will help them to understand that the bathroom is the appropriate place to relieve themselves.

#2 Give Your Child Something to Occupy Their Time While on the Potty

It can be difficult for a child who is autistic to sit still, especially if they don’t have anything to keep them engaged or entertained. Consider giving your child a toy, book, tablet or other electronic device to keep them occupied while sitting on the potty.

#3 Make Potty Training Fun by Including Your Child’s Favorite Things

Does your child have a favorite song, movie, color, or character? If so, try incorporating those things when potty training.

#4 Give Your Child an Incentive After They’ve Used the Potty

Praise your child for their time on the potty by giving them an incentive. The incentive can be as small as a piece of candy or as big as a trip to the movie theater- you decide!

#5 Be Patient and Understand that Your Child Will Learn at Their Own Pace

Potty training may be more challenging for your child than others, and that is okay. Be patient with your child and try your best to refrain from comparing them to other children.

Share Your Thoughts and Experiences in the Comments Section Below!

Is your child potty trained? If so, how did you go about training them?


About the Writer

Sparkle Allen Hoston is an autism advocate, content creator, and stay-at-home mother from Oakland, CA.

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