Toilet Training: When Should Your Child Start ?

When To Start Toilet Training?

Potty Training

Many children with autism are difficult to toilet train. Even in typically-developing children, toilet training is often a difficult skill to master. The first question for toilet training is “when” rather than “how”.
When should you start your child for potty training? Depends on you and your child.
Do not start toilet training until both you and your child are ready. You are ready when you are able to devote the time and energy necessary to encourage your child on a daily basis for at least 3 months.  Do you have enough patience and perseverance?

Most typically-developing children begin potty training sometime around 18 months to three years of age. Emotionally, a child’s sense of self starts to emerge around the age of two. For the first time, the child realizes that she can affect the world and her own life. Although many parents feel like 3 years is a magic age by which their child must be potty trained, that is not always the case. Almost 25% of kids weren’t potty trained until they were 3 1/2 or 4 years old. Many children with autism starts much later and requires much more patience and perseverance.

Your child is ready when he or she shows some of the signals that he is ready. The age to start training therefore depends on these signs.

Signs of Readiness

1. Ability to Recognize the Need
You should also be able to tell when your child is about to urinate or have a bowel movement by his facial expressions, posture or by what he says. If your child has begun to tell you about having a dirty diaper you should praise him for telling you and encourage him to tell you in advance next time. In the ideal case, he/she can communicate the need to go to the toilet.

2. Time of Dryness
He/she should be able to stay dry for at least 2 hours at a time

3. Bowel movements
Is he/she having regular bowel movements?

4. Self Awareness
Is your child being uncomfortable with dirty diapers and wanting them to be changed? Or couldn’t care less about his/her diaper as long as he/she playing with his/her favorite toy? What is your child’s mood like? If he/she feels uncomfortable, the time may be ripe for training.

5. Self Motivation 
Did your child express his/her own desire to use the potty or toilet seat? Or to change to regular underwear instead of diaper? Is he/she trying/wanting to imitate their peers and older siblings?
If yes, he/she may be motivated and ready for toilet training.

6. Follow Instructions and Attention
He/She should be able to follow simple instructions to begin training.  He should have certain attention span for him/her to focus on tasks on hand.

Begin Your Assessment

The first step of toilet training is therefore to start your own assessment whether your child is ready to receive the training.

A simple booklet or chart could be used to collect the above data especially for (1), (2) and (3).  If possible hourly recording, will show the changes in pattern over time and you could then asess whether it is time for the training.    In every recording, you could note down:

a) If he/she is dry/wet
b) Urinated or have bowel movement
c) Able to express (facial, verbal or other expession)

Once you think it is time for toilet training, you will need some special training and communication methods especially for children with autism.    Hope those who have any suggestions or tips could share with us.

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