How to Potty Train Children With Autism

by Nakia Jackson
Learning to sit on the potty can take longer for autistic children.

Learning to sit on the potty can take longer for autistic children.

Using the toilet is second nature to adults, but for a child with autism, it's an introduction to a new group of skills and terms, and most challenging of all, a permanent change of routine. Some children on the autism spectrum have trouble understanding verbal directions, removing clothing, or understanding when they need to use the toilet. Children with autism spectrum disorders might potty-train later than their peers, but with a clear routine and simple directions, your special little one will learn key toileting skills.

Observe your child to determine approximately when he urinates or defecates. Write these times down in your notebook.

Choose a potty or toilet seat attachment. Some children with ASD can choose their own, but others might be overwhelmed by choosing from unfamiliar options. Explain the purpose of the potty.

Choose training pants or underwear. Some parents may prefer to go directly from diapers to underwear, because it has no absorbent material to keep the child from feeling wet. Training pants won't absorb as much as a diaper, but they will prevent waste from forming large puddles. Rub the inside to check for possible sensory triggers, such as a rough seam or tags.

Select a time for sitting on the potty about 10 minutes before a time when your child usually urinates. Offer additional beverages or salty snacks about 15 minutes before potty time. For example, if she usually urinates at about 10:30, offer beverages and snacks at 10:05 and begin potty time at 10:20. If you have a schedule posted with pictures for your child, add a photo or drawn picture of the potty to the schedule.

Walk with your child to the potty and help her remove clothing and sit down. Keep her occupied with favorite stories, songs and puzzles until she urinates, or as long as she will tolerate sitting. If she refuses or gets up early, try again another day. Children with ASD can react negatively to changes in routine, and they often need more time to adjust.

Incorporate regular potty times into the daily routine. Observe your child for signs of distress before and during potty time, and eliminate possible sensory triggers, such as clothing tags, noises or lighting that might bother him.

Offer rewards for successful use of the potty and for related skills, such as sitting down, pulling up underwear or washing hands.

Items you will need

  • Notebook
  • Potty or toilet seat attachment
  • Training pants or underwear
  • Beverages
  • Salty snacks (optional)
  • Books or puzzles
  • Rewards- stickers, small toys, treats


  • Change your child's diaper (or wet training pants) in the bathroom.
  • If your child has trouble removing his clothing or sitting down, work on those skills separately from potty time first.

About the Author

Nakia Jackson has written for online publications since 2006, including columns for Sadie Magazine, Naseeb and Muslim Wake Up!. She has written on religion and beauty, crafts and music. Jackson's expertise stems from personal experience and her years at Berklee College of Music, pursuing a Bachelor of Music.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images