Written by: Dr. Katie Rinald
1. It’s really tricky to know when to start!
Conventional wisdom around teaching toileting skills is that you should wait until the child shows you they’re ready. “Readiness” is said to be demonstrated by things like being uncomfortable in soiled diapers, asking to use the toilet, or wanting to wear underwear.
However – there’s actually no research that says any of these so called “readiness” signs are necessary to be successful with toileting! Lots of kids, including many with an ASD diagnosis, don’t show these signs at all, and are still totally able to rock it.
If YOU feel ready, that’s actually a bigger deal! Can you commit to toileting as a priority for a while? Can you maintain a positive attitude throughout? Will life be relatively ‘stable’ for a while – e.g., no new babies coming, no moves, no transitions to a new school, etc.? Then you’re probably ready to go for it!
In terms of your child’s readiness: as long as they can sit on the toilet relatively comfortably for a few minutes – in other words, they’re not fearful about sitting at all—then they’re probably ready to go for it too!
2. The right equipment helps.
Speaking of being comfortable on the toilet – the right equipment can really help with this! You want to make sure the toilet feels soft and stable to your little one. If you’re using the toilet, add a soft, squishy seat on top of it (Prince Lionheart and DreamBaby make great ones!) and make sure you have a footstool that’s tall enough for their feet to be firmly planted while on the toilet. Make sure it doesn’t feel shaky at all – stability is huge!
If your child is small or shows some fear of the toilet, using a potty to start with is totally fine, too! You can even find models of potties that have a detachable seat that can later be placed on top of the big toilet, making generalization easier!
3. Motivation is KEY.
Learning to use the toilet should be fun! You want your child to buy in and enjoy the process. After successes, providing something that will BLOW YOUR CHILD’S MIND can REALLY help to both make the learning process happen, and to make it fun!
In practice, I have supported families in using about a billion different things with their kids – from simulating a “surprise egg” YouTube video (offering playdough-covered Kinder eggs!), to a few bites of ice cream, to FaceTiming with Grandma, to blowing up a balloon, to unwrapping a new gift… the possibilities are endless!
Try to think of the things that would be most thrilling to your child! If nothing comes to mind, ask others who know them, too. Family members, babysitters, therapists, even siblings might have great ideas for special stuff to make the process more magical!
4. Many kids do best with a more immersive launch.
We see in the research, and our practice with families, that a lot of kids are most successful with toileting when they can REALLY focus on it for a few days.
Offering extra liquid to drink can mean many more opportunities to pee, and therefore many more opportunities to learn! A more intensive toileting process is described in this free video series, along with a slowed-down method if the intensive way won’t suit your family:
5. Don’t forget to get some support!
While we want to do everything we can to make toilet learning fun for the kid… it can be totally exhausting and downright confusing for the adult, to be honest! Getting a toileting partner can really help; do you have a co-parent or other family member or friend who will trade off with you in supporting your child?
If your child has a support team, reach out for help from them, too! Lots of professionals like Behaviour Consultants, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, and Speech-Language Pathologists are experienced with toileting support and are happy to help you with this huge milestone!
About the Author
Dr. Katie Rinald is a toileting specialist and founder of Blackbird Toileting Services. Her agency provides support to families all over the world facing toileting challenges! You can find Katie at blackbirdtoileting.com or @toileting101 on Instagram.