Potty Training…oh the luxuries of motherhood


So recently I have talked with three close friends about potty training. Each of my friends and myself all agree potty training is the least desired job motherhood has to offer! Really, I dread it like a plague.


A handful of months ago I did a four part series on potty training. (You can find that here, herehere, and here.) Out of the three friends, only one has a child on the spectrum. Even this particular child is only slightly on the spectrum, but on the spectrum nonetheless. As I was talking to my friends, I  wasonce again reminded it doesn’t matter if your child is neurotypical or autistic, potty training is difficult regardless.


Yesterday, as I was walking into the bathroom, a book on my bathroom bookshelf caught my eye. Yes, I have a bookshelf in my bathroom. Maybe it’s more like a bookshelf/magazine shelf. Either way its actually really cute and adds a nice design touch to the oft neglected room. And maybe that’s more info than you care to know:) Anyway, this book is titled Toilet Training for Individuals with Autism or other Developmental Issues. Some of the content is exclusively suited for autistic individuals, but as I was reading I found much of it’s content to be applicable to neurotypical children as well.


For my girlfriends…You may have already tried this, but I figured sharing this bit of information might be of some help if you have not. The part I am sharing comes from chapter 11 titled Support Strategies. Here is what they have to say…

Stories That Teach

Another highly effective, novel approach for teaching skills is to develop stories that describe someone engaging in the desired behavior. These teaching stories should be written in the present tense and describe the relevant steps in the skill as they are being carried out. Make each story into a small book. Illustrating teaching stories with pictures can also be a powerful support for some people. Read the teaching story about using the toilet to the person each day. Allow the individual to access the book anytime he chooses. For those who cannot read, supplement the most relevant printed words in the story with the pictures that are used as cues during the toileting routine. Present only one step, using one to three sentences, per page. Describe steps in a positive way without lecturing, nagging, or describing what to avoid doing.


Pre-teaching is another novel approach for teaching skills in a more effective manner. Pre-teaching consists of providing clear reminders to the learner immediately before the skill is to be used. The reminders may be verbal, visual, or physical; however, to be most effective, provide visual reminders that build on the individual’s preferences and strengths.

Pre-teaching can be provided most effectively by:

1. Presenting a picture cue to remind the learner about the next task or any changed to anticipate.
2. Presenting a sequenced strip of picture cues to remind the learner about the steps for completing the task.
3. Reading a teaching story (a.k.a. a social story) about the task or routine to be completed immediately prior to starting that task.


Example Social Story from the book:


Using the Toilet

Sometimes I have to pee-pee

I go to the bathroom when I have to pee-pee

Sometimes I have to poop.

I go to the bathroom when I have to poop.

When I go in the bathroom, I pull my pants down.

I sit on the toilet.

Sometimes I pee-pee in the toilet.

Sometimes I poop in the toilet.

When I am finished going pee-pee and poop, I wipe 

my bottom with toilet paper. Sometimes I have to wipe

again. I wipe to make my bottom clean and dry.

After I wipe, I drop the dirty toilet paper in the toilet.

I flush the toilet.

I go to the sink and wash my hands with soap and water.

I dry my hands.

I was trying other avenues with Cali that proved to work before I  could approached the social story avenue, but I think using a social story is a fantastic approach. In fact, just last week Cali’s therapist, Madi, wrote a social story to help Cali engage with her peers (post on this to come!). We have also used a number other social stories to help Cali in various developmental/behavioral areas. If we are consistent in reading them to her, they prove to be very effective.

You can read more about social stories here, but the one advice I would give is to make the social story personal to the child. Insert their name and talk about what the child needs are specifically. The above story is just an example they gave in the book. I like it because it is clear cut and emphasizes all the major parts to toileting.

Hope this can help friends!! And hope this can help others as well! In fact, I will be taking from this example story and using it on my future children.

Did you enjoy what you read? Don't forget to spread the word. Share by pinning, linking, or tweeting.


  1. ahh this came at a perfect time! we attempted potty training when my son was around 3 & it was hard since my son is non verbal. so trying to explain things was useless as he didn’t understand. so we waited. he will be 5 next month & we have been going at it for a few weeks & it has gone SO much better. while he still is non verbal using a reinforcer that he loves has worked. while we still have a ways to go we have been almost accident free (pee) while he is in underwear around the house. he even went by himself twice (meaning no prompting), but it has not been consistent. we are still working on him letting us know or we prompt once in awhile. even though he doesn’t quite meet the “readiness” requirements we are doing it anyways & so far it has been going well this time around. i think waiting till he was a bit older has helped. can’t wait for the day when there are NO more diapers :)

leave a comment