So, I’ve taken to spending the majority of a weekend when necessary, with families when it comes to toilet training their child. It’s highly glamorous, really. Just the mom, the dad, the child and me cooped up in the family bathroom for six or more hours at a time. I brought donuts on the second day just in case anyone was in need of a morale boost since I left the parents on their own at the end of the first day. They had a fresh pot of coffee on and were still in good spirits. All kidding aside, it’s really the only way to do it. During the weekend you are free from the week’s distractions and you have the entire family there for carry over, which in the long run is the deciding factor in a child’s success and generalization. So, while I’ve been helping families with toilet training for years this was the first time I spent two full days helping to implement the protocol. I thought I could share with you my general tips from years of experience along with some new insights from my newest adventure in toileting that I like to call the “weekend warrior”.
First, we will start with the general tips:
Prepare, prepare, prepare! This means talking about toileting every chance you get.
- Learn your child’s routine (when do they typically “go”)
- Watch videos about toileting
- Read books or social stories about toileting
- Use a doll for pretend toileting
- Allow your child to watch you use the toilet
- Provide opportunities to “try” without any pressure
Gather materials. You want to have it all before starting.
- A comfortable potty seat that fits over the toilet
- A footstool for resting their feet and providing postural support
- Data sheets
- A timer
- Lots of underwear!
- Highly preferred snacks and drinks
- As many reinforcers you can identify as highly motivating
Several days before you begin:
- Increase fluids to make sure child is well hydrated
- Eliminate access to all items identified as highly preferred reinforcers to maintain potency
What did I learn?
- Adherence to the protocol is important but above all there needs to be a discussion regarding what makes the most sense for the family. This was more apparent to me than ever having been in the home for so many consecutive hours. For example, I feel strongly about going straight to underwear from diapers without using an intermediate type of coverage. However, the stress of cleaning up possible accidents resulted in anxiety on the part of the parents, which in turn led to stress on the child (reducing success). So, after two days in underwear we went to pull-ups and guess what, the child kept it dry the majority of the time! This experience should be a collaborative partnership with the family, whatever protocol you are using; if it doesn’t make sense to the parent it won’t work. It is our job as providers to individualize the plan for each family in a way that empowers them without compromising the core details of the protocol.
- I also feel rather strongly about starting on the regular potty instead of a little child potty. However, we ended up doing a combination of both with great success. It turns out that the child did better with the postural support provided by the child potty. Since, he didn’t show any fear surrounding the use of the actual toilet we decided it was ok to use the potty and later transition to the toilet.
If you think your you and your child are ready these are my “go to” references. Best of luck!
Azrin, N.H., and Foxx, R.M. Toilet Training in Less Than A Day. New York, NY: Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1976.
Kroeger, K. and Sorensen, R. (2010), A parent training model for toilet training children with autism. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 54: 556–567. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01286.x. (Click the title to download the full article).