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Posted by Jim O'Donnell on July 25, 2000 at 23:54:03:

In Reply to: Potty training dilemma - help! (desperate) posted by Yvonne on July 20, 2000 at 08:14:23:

: I've finally getting down to potty training my daughter, who just turned 5. We tried half a year ago for a few months with no success, and now since huggies size 6 are getting snug, I figure it's high time.


This is a toughie. Lots of kids are stubborn about potty training, not just autistic ones. I'm afraid I've never heard of a marathon session like you've described being particularly useful. You should keep in mind a few things.

1. Children with autism generally learn better in very small increments with reinforcement than they do in huge chunks. Many parents report that their children seem to pick up an activity all at once. This is deceptive. My son does this (learned to work the VCR, Computer, Read, etc.) but we have found that he more likely doesn't display a learned behavior until he is sure he can get it perfectly. The big jumps are more a reflection of his own confidence in a complex behavior. You may have more success breaking the act down into increments and using a reward system. Also, fit the potty break into a special favorite routine (we got it working at first regularly as a step on the way to the pool). We have had some, but not complete success generalizing potty breaks by putting a chart with stickers by the toilet. Brian gets to put a star on every time he removes his diaper, sits on the toilet and then dresses himself. Additionally, he gets a small piece of chocolate every time he uses the toilet. (We're still working on the cleanup part, but progress is progress ;-)

2. Children, particularly autistic ones, are creatures of habit and of comfort. This fact is not lost on the Huggies people. I'm pretty sure children in general are staying in diapers much later than earlier generations because the companies that make disposable diapers have made them much more comfortable. They are soft and dry and mask odor much more effectively than cloth diapers. Your daughter is autistic, but probably not stupid. Put yourself in her place. As long as she's comfortable, she'll hang with the status quo. Our first full-time teacher had a lot of experience and gave us a few helpful pointers to reduce the comfort. Try introducing your daughter to regular underwear. If you're doing this already (over a diaper), put the underwear on UNDER the diaper. This will protect the outer clothes, furniture, etc. but will keep her in contact with the wetness, which is uncomfortable. If I'm right about this, don't be surprised if your child initially tries to remedy the situation herself by hiding the proceeds of her accidents around your house. STAY VIGILANT! If she has an accident (she will) use this as an opportunity to show her where the stuff should go. Discuss it with her (she's listening). Wipe (praise), flush (praise), wash hands (praise). Also allude nonthreateningly to the odor. Let her know it's unpleasant without making it personal.

Be prepared to go at this for a while. I expect you'll see some improvements pretty quickly, but we're still working with Brian to get everything together. It's been 2 months. He's come a long way though :-D

3. Try the videos. If she's like Brian, she picks things up from repetitive videos. If you can find one she likes (God help you, there's prolly not much that could be worse than an autistic child hooked on a potty song, but it's the price you pay) integrate it into your program.

4. Be patient. She will get there.

Hope this helps.


Jim O'Donnell

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