Saturday, 9 August 2014

Autism, Limited Speech, and Potty Training.....Oh My

This special task can also be described as driving yourself to the brink of insanity all while making your sweet four year old sick of your face.  Or, in my case it could also be called what I did on my very brief summer vacation.  Sigh. 

I have been psyching myself up for this for months.  I have read so many books, not on potty training typical kids, but on potty training special needs kids.  OK, I just laughed my ass off at myself.  I just said “I read so many books” with a straight face. Ha.  I will never forget when my brother in law and sister in law were first pregnant I took a bunch of books we tried with Jack over to them since we weren’t using them anymore.  I think I kind of shocked them with the variety of topics.  It never occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it was an absurd number.   That maybe most people get, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and they’re done with it.  Oops.  We had like 30 books by then, I only brought a handful.  Most were about getting your baby to sleep.  Ask me if any of them worked.  So excuse me while I laugh at myself for a moment. 

Anyhow, I read books, my mother sent me a “helpful” power point (sorry mom, but well, ha), but really what I needed to do was steel myself emotionally for quite a process.  It is a well-known fact that kids with autism are extremely difficult to potty train, due to sensory issues, developmental delays (i.e., lack of control of bodily functions) and difficulty communicating.  Nate’s biggest issue is definitely the communication aspect.  We had super difficult sensory challenges with Jack, and we do not have those with Nate, so I can thank God for that.   I developed my “plan” and scheduled a weekend to start, then took the following Monday and Tuesday off so that Nate and I would have 4 solid days to just stay home and work on this with no interruptions.  I resolved to start with taking him every 15 minutes.  Yes, you heard that right, every 15 minutes.  My goal was to try and catch him every single time he went and reward and praise him copiously, thinking that the more positive reinforcement I was able to give him, the more the concept would sink in.
Well here’s the thing, my kid is a camel.  The child pees 3-4 times a day TOPS.  And no I am not kidding.  And still, with every 15 minutes (ok, well we increased to every 20 minutes after 2 days, with 5 minutes on the potty, then 20 minutes in between) we had….drumroll…..4 pee pee successes in 4 DAYS.  4.  4.  I said 4.  And mommy was entering a type of potty psychosis that no one ever wants to see.  Ever.  I am a very goal oriented person and was spending quite a lot of time blaming myself for “missing” opportunities, when in reality, I’m pretty sure Nate was sneaking away to go. I ended up with one of the worst migraines I have had this year.   On the third day, I found a video social story that made a big difference for us.  I am not going to say it will make a huge difference for everyone, but Nate is an extremely visual guy, and my concern was that despite all of the hoopla we were making about the potty, all the books, all the demos, etc., he didn’t understand what he was actually supposed to DO on the potty. This app gives you the opportunity to make the child look like him, and has the child walk through the potty steps, and it uses language that is very much on his level.  He loves to watch it, and I think he understood a bit better after this. 

On Wednesday, I had to take him back to Cisco Center, I had to go back to work, and I really just didn’t have any choice.  I put him in a pull up and talked to the instructors, who agreed to at least try the potty once an hour.  I had zero expectations and figured we would just try again over the weekend.  And then at about noon I got a text---- “success!”  And I burst into tears.  When I went to pick him up at about 3, he hadn’t gone again the whole day- typical Nate- he had an accident the minute we walked in the door, but frankly I didn’t care.  The next day, he went right before we left the house, and around noon I got the same text “success” again- picked him up at around 4 and he had been dry all afternoon- got him to the potty right after we walked in the door and WE had success again!  Then success again before bedtime.  Which means….he stayed dry all day!!!  Now he had an accident yesterday, and I don’t anticipate we will be consistently dry for quite a while, but he is showing signs that he is “getting it” and we will take it.  And we will keep going- hourly for now.  And I am just going to have to chill out.  If we miss an opportunity it is not the end of the world- this is a marathon not a sprint.  We will get there.  


  1. Good luck with potty training. Sometimes this goes just like with neurotypical kids and the problem is more the parents worrying about it, than the autism. Some parents put this off for years and then it does become a huge issue. We all develop habits that are hard to change.

  2. Congratulations! What a great beginning. Remember it is not a linear process, there will be a lot of 2-steps-forward-1-step-off-to-the-side progress. :-D