Sensory-Friendly Toilet Training for Kids with Autism

Guest Post by Connie Hammer, Parent Coach

All parents eventually have to face the task of weaning their child from diapers. As that time nears they often question – “When will my child be ready?” “How do I begin the process?” “What is the best approach for me to use?” “What if my child resists?”

In addition to these questions, one of the most important to be asked when tackling this task is, “How can I create a ‘sensory-friendly’ environment for my child?” The mission here is for parents to gather detailed information regarding their child’s sensory likes and dislikes, what irritates them and what soothes them, what is likely to work for them and what isn’t, weeks before they begin the training process. Gathering clues early on about your child’s relationship with the bathroom is like putting money in the bank. The insight you acquire and utilize will give you a great return on your investment in the long run.

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Learning a new skill can be a challenge for anyone and instructing someone to acquire a new skill can take even more effort, especially if they are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Teaching a child with special needs to master the essential daily living skill of using the toilet can feel extremely daunting yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

Regardless of where your child lies on the spectrum and what issues he or she may have, a potty training triumph depends upon the creation of a “sensory-friendly” environment. An atmosphere that is considerate of communication barriers, social challenges and sensory issues is very important when it comes to toilet training a child with Autism.

Establishing such an environment takes time. Knowing what will work best for another individual, especially one who experiences the world entirely different from you, takes a lot of careful detective work, preparation and patience.

So, how does one create a ‘sensory-friendly’ bathroom environment for a child on the Autism spectrum?

Here are some suggestions and strategies to consider:

What equipment will be the most user-friendly to your child’s senses? What toilet seat accommodations will work best to lessen any potential for “That seat is too cold, too rough, too high”? What texture will be most soothing to him or her? Will a stand-alone potty chair or a commode with adaptor help your child feel most safe, secure and comfortable?

Is your bathroom environment easy to manipulate? Are the important articles such as towels, towel racks, step stool, and soap accessible to them? It is important to identify any barriers that might be in the way of success up front, such as doors, light switches, and water that is too hot.

What about possible distractions and how can you minimize them? Some decorations, fancy soaps, toys and windows can take a child’s concentration away from the task at hand. As silly as it sounds, consider mood music and lighting because a relaxing, calm and inviting atmosphere will go far in reducing any anxiety and producing the results you desire.

Does your child’s clothing make it easy to independently care of his/her toileting needs? Forget cute and go functional! Consider loose fitting, easy-on/easy-off, knit wear. It may not look that great but the goal is to have everything feel good and be easy for your child to adjust – anything that takes time and increases frustration will only create a barrier.

The sights, sounds, smells and even the clothing your child wears can be determining factors for success or failure when it comes to potty training. Paying attention to sensory details such as the lighting in the bathroom, the sound of the toilet flushing and the texture of the toilet paper may seem a bit extreme but being mindful about these details will really pay off in the long run.

 

If you want more information for putting a sensory-friendly potty training plan in place for your child, click here for details about Connie’s upcoming class, From Bathroom Battles to Bathroom Bliss – Potty Training 101.

 

Connie-Hammer-150x150Connie Hammer is the owner of The Progressive Parent, LLC, a parent coaching business that offers quality parent coaching services, workshops & tele-classes to individuals, couples & groups.  A licensed social worker, Connie helps parents uncover abilities and change possibilities with her more than twenty years of experience working with families. As a parent educator and certified parent coach, she currently supports parents of young children recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Connie offers parents a free weekly tip-style newsletter, The Spectrum, as well as a free e-course, Parenting a Child with autism – 3 Secrets to Thrive. For additional information, visit http://www.parentcoachingforautism.com or contact Connie at 207-615-5457 or email connie@parentcoachingforautism.com.

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About Alan Yau

Creator of Autism Sparks
Author of Autism: A Practical Guide for Parents

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  1. […] more information on making the toilet a sensory-friendly space for kids with autism, visit the Autism Sparks blog and take a look at this presentation on ‘Continence issues in children and young people with […]

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