By Ms. Allison Ballin, MS,BCBA
Many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) struggle to learn how to toilet independently. Gastrointestinal problems, communication deficits, sensory needs, and learning challenges often times prevent them from learning this complex skill as other children do. Problematic or maladaptive behaviors – such as aggression, tantrums, and self-injury – create major safety concerns when teaching.
In addition, behaviors such as rectal digging and fecal smearing can seriously interfere with training. Although incredibly challenging, these behaviors by no means mean these individuals are incapable of learning how to toilet independently; they just must need to be taught in a different way.
The reality is that the biggest barrier to these children learning this skill is others. In regards to caregivers, the level of patience and perseverance necessary to toilet train some children with autism is unimaginable to most. Not to mention, the sense of humor that must be kept throughout the process can be near impossible.
Consistent implementation is a typical roadblock, for neither teachers nor parents have the time or resources necessary to attempt this monumental task.
With that being said, it is important to note that no child learns to toilet train the same with or without the challenges of Autism. Individualized programming is required for most children to be successful at learning this new skill. The likelihood is that if you are a caregiver trying to toilet train a child with autism, this is not your first attempt.
You probably feel like you have tried it all with no success, and you may have. However, that is no reason to give up. When you are ready to try again, do it with the help of a professional who will assist you in analyzing the behavior and determining the best starting point.