Toilet training any toddler can be demanding, and if you have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you may encounter various types of challenges when potty training.
This post will help you understand some of those challenges and give you tips on how to overcome them.
Aeroflow Urology also asked Sierra Ferrell, the mother of Oliver, a child with autism, to share their story so you can see that if you’re facing obstacles while potty training your child, you’re not alone!
What Is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that can affect how your child communicates, learns, and behaves. Children with autism may experience developmental delays, delayed motor skill development, specific medical issues, and incontinence.
What Are the Symptoms of Autism?
There are many symptoms of autism, and no one child with autism is affected in the same way.
According to Autism Speaks, some of the main symptoms of ASD include:
- Communication issues. These can include trouble making eye contact, communicating verbally and non-verbally, and making facial expressions.
- Social challenges. Social challenges, such as difficulty recognizing emotions in others, understanding visual cues, feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or upset by certain situations, and not understanding personal space are all social challenges that a child with autism may face.
- Repetitive or restrictive behaviors. Behaviors such as repetitive body movements, extreme interest in particular topics, and the inability to break from patterns are all seen in children with autism.
Incontinence is another symptom related to autism. According to PubMed, children with autism show increased night-time bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) and accidents during the day (daytime enuresis). Children with autism may also have trouble controlling their bladders and making bowel movements due to constipation.
Why Do Children With Autism Have Trouble Toilet Training?
Toilet training is a challenging feat for any child or parent. The transition from diapers to a toilet seat is big and breaks a pattern your child has known their entire life. Incontinence in children with autism is expected because of their usual delayed potty training process.
Children with autism may have trouble toilet training for one or many of the following reasons.
- Poor bladder control and bowel control. If your child has autism, they may not be able to tell that they need to go to the bathroom, or they may not be able to feel that they need to void due to sensory processing disorders. For example, children with autism may have interoceptive sensory issues, which means they can’t feel what’s happening inside their bodies, like the need to pee or poop.
- Toilet training delays. Children with autism generally take longer to learn new things due to developmental disabilities, including learning how to use the toilet.
- Trouble adjusting to a toileting routine. Breaking patterns can be difficult for children with autism. Also, wearing a diaper is something your child has done their entire life, so moving away from that behavior and learning a new skill, like toileting, may be problematic.
- Constipation. Poops can be a big issue for children with autism. Children with autism usually have many medical problems, including gastrointestinal (GI) issues. GI issues in children with autism can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. This may be due to selectively eating more processed and less fibrous foods.
- Behavioral issues. Some behavior issues during the toilet training process include fecal smearing. Fecal smearing occurs when a child with autism is experiencing anxiety, difficulty breaking routine, or psychiatric problems such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
If you’re facing these issues while potty training your child, you should speak with your child’s pediatrician or pediatric doctor to find out how you can help them through the process. It may also be that your child isn’t ready for toilet training yet, so you should always be aware of their mental readiness to make the process easier for you. Another option is to speak with a behavior analyst or occupational therapist if you’re finding that your child is struggling with potty training.
We asked Sierra Ferrell and her family what it’s like to potty train a child with autism. Read her story below to gain insight into this process.
The Ferrell's Story
You know all about the dreaded potty training stage if you've had a toddler. But when you have a child with special needs, this can become a little more of a challenge.
When we first got Oliver’s autism diagnosis, we knew we would have our obstacles, but no one prepared us for the toilet training process. We didn’t know that children with autism tend to have a more challenging time learning to use the bathroom. This can be for many reasons like avoiding the toilet because it’s too loud, not liking the change in routine, getting stuck on repetitive behaviors like flushing the toilet repeatedly, and many more. These things can make learning to use the bathroom independently more challenging.
We felt the need to get my son out of pull-ups from peer pressure, and he was quickly outgrowing all the sizes available in stores. People asked why he was still in pull-ups while their 2-year-olds were entirely potty trained. We were coming up on his fourth birthday, and having already tried three times, we began feeling pretty defeated. Finally, we accepted he might not be ready & started looking for every option available.
We were so relieved we found Aeroflow Urology! Aeroflow is dedicated to improving people’s lives by providing high-quality incontinence supplies. They do everything for you from start to finish, making it a wholly stress-free & easy experience.
We filled out a straightforward form, and Aeroflow Urology reached out, asking for more details about our needs. Within days we had multiple samples in our mailbox to choose from. Aeroflow partners with different companies making it possible to sample other brands to find the best fit for you and your lifestyle.
Oliver also has eczema, so we needed something gentle enough on his skin but also tolerable to his sensory sensitivities at the same time. He hadn’t liked any other brand of pull-ups for almost three years but, to our surprise, he loved them!
Once we found one he liked and was comfortable with, our first box was shipped right to our doorstep within two weeks! My favorite part was that we didn’t have to play “phone tag” with doctors or insurance. Aeroflow Urology takes care of everything! There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting on the phone for hours just to be told you need to call someone else. (Been there!) On top of that, reordering is so easy with a simple click of a button through the automated system. You can see their care for their customers by making the process smooth and easy!
The subject of potty training went from a stressful topic to instant relief overnight, thanks to Aeroflow! So now, when people ask if he will be potty trained, I tell them - whenever he is ready.
How Aeroflow Urology Can Help Your Child
Toilet training can be a long, tiring process, but don’t worry— Aeroflow Urology can help! If your child is transitioning from diapers to the toilet and still needs incontinence supplies, fill out our eligibility form to see if your child can qualify for little to no-cost incontinence supplies like diapers, wipes, and more.
How Do I Get Supplies Through My Insurance?
The process is simple to see if you qualify for incontinence supply coverage for your child. Follow these steps to apply.
Step 1. Fill out our qualification form at the top of this page or by clicking this link.
Step 2. If you or your child qualifies, one of our Continence Care Specialists will be in touch with you to help you find the perfect supplies for your child.
Step 3. Your child’s incontinence supplies will be shipped directly to your door in discreet packaging each month. We’ll also send you text or email reminders when it’s time to re-supply so you’ll never have to go on a diaper run again!
Autism Speaks. (2019). What Are the Symptoms of Autism? | Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks. https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-are-symptoms-autism
von Gontard, A., Pirrung, M., Niemczyk, J., & Equit, M. (2015). Incontinence in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Pediatric Urology, 11(5), 264.e1–264.e7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpurol.2015.04.015
Autism spectrum disorder and digestive symptoms. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/expert-answers/autism-and-digestive-symptoms/faq-20322778#:~:text=Yes%2C%20children%20with%20autism%20spectrum
“It Happens” - Fecal Smearing in Individuals with ASD. (2019, June 19). Autism Awareness. https://autismawarenesscentre.com/it-happens-fecal-smearing-in-individuals-with-asd/
Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.