Potty Training for Children with Autism and Learning Disabilities

Is it difficult for children with autism disorders and learning disabilities to learn how to use the toilet? Most of the time, yes. These lovable children usually have problems with bowel and bladder control, but they can be potty trained. They usually have to go through a learning process that can be tiring because it may take a long time, even months. Here are some main guidelines on how to gradually help them use the toilet.


    • Since children with ASD (autism spectrum disorders) and learning disabilities tend to have bladder and/or bowel issues ranging from having loose stool to constipation, it is suggested that parents consult health specialists and pediatricians to help them in the training process.

    • Training for these infants is done gradually. Parents and/or caregivers need to be patient by teaching kids in a progressive manner. They should be trained according to their developmental and not necessarily by their age. Meaning, training is done according to the level of maturity reached individually by each child.

    • Before starting the training period, it is important to determine if the toddler is ready for training. There are signs that we can identify easily, like when they are able to urinate or defecate at regular times every day or when they inform you that their diaper is wet. When this happens, you can monitor the time and place of the event and register it on a chart. This chart may give you a better picture and helps you plan the training schedule. If the child isn’t ready, be patient. Give him/her a couple of months and check again!

    • Progress has to be encouraged and transmitted in a clear way to avoid a misinterpretation by the child.  For example, body language messages are not usually understood by children with ASD and learning disabilities.

    • A series of rewards can be implemented to positively reinforce the learning process.

    • The first step is to get the infant to defecate in the bathroom. They will probably still wear a diaper, but this way, even though they are not using the potty, they can start using the restroom for the intended purpose.

    • Next step is to get the child to sit on the toilet at his/her own time. It doesn’t matter if they still wear a diaper.

    • Once the toddler is used to sitting on the toilet, the diaper is gradually removed. This way, the child will hear the stool actually falling into the potty. Usually, the child gets used to this and will sit normally without experiencing fears. Remember to continuously provide positive reinforcement on how well they are doing with potty training.

    • To ease the process, you should give instructions and repeat them progressively, in a clear and sequential way. Below are some examples:

      1. Pull down your pants and/or underwear

      1. Sit on the potty or toilet seat to urinate or defecate

      1. Wipe properly with toilet paper (some help may be needed with this step)

4. Pull up your pants and/or underwear

      1. Flush the toilet when ready

      1. Wash and dry hands

Potty training children with autism disorders and learning disabilities can be achieved, the learning curve simply requires a bit more persistence. Parents and/or caregivers need to wait patiently until the child is ready. Don´t worry if potty training the infant seems to take a long time, the efforts will be compensated by having a healthier and happier child!

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