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A common question for most parents and especially those with children on the spectrum is when can I start to potty train, my child?

Toileting readiness usually occurs at the mental age of 2-3. It is possible with a younger mental age; it is just more difficult and will take more time.

Make sure your child has the sensory awareness of understanding that he is wet. This is not a prerequisite, but it will make it more helpful.

Physiological Factors to keep in mind include making sure that your child goes through periods that they are dry and have regular bowel movements.

Another thing to look out for is that they should be able to hold their urine when their diaper is off.


Barriers that prevent toileting readiness for children with ASD


Medical Issues

Check with your doctor if your child has issues with constipation or UTI since if they have issues it will cause the child to have aversive feelings towards the bathroom

Communication Difficulty 

Literal communication is an issue since we don’t usually state exactly what we need to do in the bathroom (ie. We use the bathroom in the bathroom.)

Children with autism need us to be very specific.

Sensory Difficulty

Children with ASD may be afraid of the sound of flusher, echoes from tiles, bright lights etc.

They also may not be aware of how it feels when they need to void.

They may also not be able to gauge the difference between the need to urinate/have a bowel movement.

Children on the spectrum might not respond the way a typically developing child feels the sensation of wet pants.

Your BCBA will work with you and teach you strategies to help your child with these difficulties

Current Routine

Children on the spectrum are often rigid and are set in their current routine.

Our job is to get them used to the “new way we use the bathroom.”

This can also make it harder for generalizing to public settings.

Children with autism often have a hard time with imitation skills. This causes toilet training to be more difficult since typically developing children often learn through imitating what they see in books, siblings etc.

On a positive note, executive routine is a strength for children with ASD.

The rigidity helps them catch on fairly quickly, sometimes quicker than a typical child.

Motor Planning

Low muscle tone, poor trunk strength may also make this process harder.

It is a good idea to discuss this with your child’s occupational/physical therapist.



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